Snow may be slowing demand for vehicles in the northeast part of the United States, but that won’t be enough for the auto industry to post its best February sales since 2002, according to forecasters. Kelley Blue Book, LMC Automotive and TrueCar expect February sales to be around 8-9 percent higher than in the same month last year – which means a seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate of 16.6 million to 16.7 million.
Should that happen, February would be the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year gains for the US auto industry. Analysts remarked that the effects of increasing gasoline prices and a work stoppage at West Coast ports have been minimal. Carmakers are set to report February sales -- including transactions through March 2 -- on March 3.
Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting, said in a statement that strength at the start of 2015 is a key factor in keeping the auto industry on pace to exceed 17 million in annual vehicle sales for the first time since 2001.
He said with all the positive factors -- the economy, gas prices and fresh new products -- the auto sales forecast would remain on target for the duration of 2015. One of the reasons for the surge is leasing.
According to J.D. Power, which provides the registration data used in LMC’s forecast, leasing penetration in the first 11 days of February surged to a record 27.4 percent of retail sales, as strong residual values rendered lease deals more attractive to car buyers.
Auto sales are also being pushed by dropping unemployment rates, a healthy stock market and other positive economic indicators. Carmakers also don’t need to spend much on spending just to gain sales, as figures show that incentive spending dropped 2.9 percent from a year ago, according TrueCar said.“
Eric Lyman, TrueCar’s vice president of industry insights, said in a statement that with overall restrained incentive spending, natural consumer demand is driving the surge in sales in February.
KBB and TrueCar both expect Toyota Motor Sales to post the biggest year-over-year growth among major carmakers, with growth of up to 18 percent. American Honda also is seen to report a double-digit jump. Other carmakers seen to log huge increases in sales are Subaru and Kia.