US auto sales in February expected to improve slightly

Article by Anita Panait, on February 28, 2014

Auto sales in the United States in February are expected to improve slimly over January thanks to Presidents Day promotions and a slight warm-up from cold winter weather last month. High inventories as well as surging rising incentives are drawing doubts on whether the auto industry has already lost some of its momentum as the critical spring selling season arrives.

"We expect elevated incentive spending to continue," Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar, said in a statement. "March is going to be a 'must-win' month for dealers if they hope to have a successful 2014."

TrueCar expects new-vehicle sales in February to surge just 0.5 percent from a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 15.4 million; January’s  SAAR was 15.2 million, affected by snowstorms and subzero temperatures across the US. Cars.com also expects a 15.4 million SAAR in February, with volume surging 1 percent.

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, expects flat sales overall in February, with General Motors and Ford Motor Co. logging the biggest drops among major carmakers since the worst weather occurred in parts of the country where they are most popular. He remarked that sales in California and other warmer areas that prefer to purchase foreign brands have been "very robust."

He projected a SAAR of 15.3 million for February. "There's still a lot of research activity -- a lot of folks out there looking to buy," Gutierrez told Automotive News, citing steady traffic on KBB's Web site as well as heighten sales activity during the lulls between snowstorms.  Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson remarked that aside from the weather, soft fleet shipments have had a negative impact on light-vehicle volumes for February. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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