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February Auto Sales Low, But Consumers Flock to Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

March 3, 2008

February sales were lower than those of the same month a year ago, which didn’t surprise industry analysts. BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Nissan and Toyota reported sales declines compared with last February, but Honda bucked the trend with higher sales than last February.

Automakers remain optimistic despite the decline in sales, especially with consumer interest for fuel efficient vehicles continuing to grow.

"Spurred in part by rising fuel prices, Toyota's fuel-efficient models and hybrids, the mainstay of our lineup, continue to show strength," said TMS President Jim Lentz, in a company press release.

Honda, whose sales increased 0.7 percent, is also catering to this segment.

"Customers wanting to upsize their fuel efficiency without downsizing vehicle utility chose Fit, Pilot and CR-V in record numbers this month," said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda, in a press release.

Ford, despite a 7 percent sales decrease in February, was optimistic since it sees its brand growing in popularity among younger buyers.

“The new Focus and SYNC arrived at an opportune time,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president, Marketing and Communications. “We needed to raise awareness and consideration among younger buyers — and Focus and SYNC are getting us back in the game.”

Chrysler saw a 14 percent drop in sales for February, but is launching more vehicles aimed at fulfilling consumers’ needs.

“The positive numbers for Dodge cars, the all-new Chrysler Town & Country and the Jeep Patriot prove our renewed focus on consumer feedback, such as the demand for good fuel economy, is resonating — and translating into sales of our New Day Value Packages,” Vice Chairman and President Jim Press said in a company release.

Despite a slight decline of 1.8 percent in February, BMW expects sales to increase later with the launch of new vehicles later this year.

“Upcoming new products like the BMW 1 Series Coupe and Convertible, BMW's Sports Activity Coupe X6, and the new twin-turbo charged Advanced Diesel engines for the 3 Series and the X5 all arriving later this year will push sales volumes again,” reported officials.

GM officials remained confident despite seeing a 13-percent sales decline in February, which is typically a strong month for sales.

“We are encouraged by our performance in the key passenger car categories, and while the overall market for trucks is challenging, we anticipate holding our share for full-size pickups and utilities," said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing, in a release.

Nissan sales decreased 2.9 percent on a daily sales rate basis but achieved a record February on a volume basis, said officials.

The February 2008 sales reports for the above-mentioned companies are as follows:

BMW: The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported February vehicle sales of 24,190, down by 1.8 percent from the 24,642 vehicles sold in the same month of 2007.

BMW brand sales were down 6.7 percent, to 20,775 vehicles compared to 22,274 vehicles sold during February 2007.

Monthly sales of BMW brand automobiles decreased 8.5 percent in February, to 15,869 vs. 17,342 in 2007.

Sales of BMW Sports Activity Vehicles were down 0.5 percent for the month, to 4,906 vehicles compared to the 4,932 reported last February.

MINI USA reported a 44.2 percent increase in February sales, to 3,415 cars compared to 2,368 cars sold in the same period a year ago.

Chrysler: Chrysler LLC reported total February 2008 sales of 150,093 units, 14 percent below the same period last year.

Sales of the Dodge Caliber and Dodge Avenger were up 10 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

Chrysler brand truck sales were led by the Chrysler Town & Country, which posted sales of 11,952 units for February, representing a 1 percent increase vs. the same period last year.

The Jeep Patriot set a new sales record for the month of February with 5,195 units sold.

Ford: Total Ford Motor Company sales, including Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, totaled 196,681 in February, down 7 percent from the same month a year ago.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury sales totaled 185,294, also down 7 percent compared with a year ago.

However, Ford’s new Focus and SYNC are connecting with small car buyers. Focus retail sales were up 36 percent in February — the fourth month in a row of higher retail sales.

Retail car sales were 4 percent higher than a year ago, paced by the Focus and the three mid-size sedans — Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ — which combined posted a retail sales increase of 7 percent.

Crossover utility vehicles continued to see higher sales in February, up 10 percent.

The MKZ and MKX helped Lincoln post higher retail sales in February (up 2 percent) although total sales were down 11 percent, reflecting lower fleet sales.

General Motors: GM dealers in the United States delivered 270,423 vehicles in February, a decrease of 13 percent compared with last year. Truck sales declined 20 percent compared with a year ago.

GM's fuel-efficient Chevrolet Cobalt total sales were up 56 percent with retail up 24 percent; Pontiac G6 was up 50 percent total and 6 percent retail; and Buick LaCrosse total sales were up 12 percent compared with February 2007.

The Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook together accounted for more than 11,000 vehicle sales in the month, an increase of 94 percent compared with the same month last year. Outlook sales were up 15 percent; Acadia sales increased 39 percent; and there were more than 3,800 Buick Enclaves sold.

Honda: American Honda Motor Co. Inc. posted record February sales results of 115,397 Honda and Acura vehicles, an increase of 0.7 percent over February 2007. American Honda light trucks also posted record monthly results with sales of 52,557, up 1.9 percent.

The Honda Division posted its best February ever with record sales of 102,313 cars and light-trucks; an increase of 1.9 percent over year-ago results. The division also posted record February light-truck sales of 46,303 trucks, up 3.0 percent over last year.

The Acura Division posted total vehicle sales of 13,084 units, down 8.0 percent.

Nissan: Nissan North America (NNA) reported sales of 86,219 units in February vs. 85,218 units in February 2007, down 2.9 percent on a daily sales rate basis.

Nissan-brand vehicles saw sales of 76,151 units, a 3.2 percent decrease on a daily sales rate basis compared with last year’s 75,514 units sold. On a total monthly volume basis, February 2008 was the best February sales month on record. Excluding fleet sales, February sales were up 2.9 percent on a daily sales rate basis.

Infiniti sales declined by 0.4 percent on a daily sales rate basis, with 10,068 units sold, compared with last February’s 9,704 units. Infiniti also posted a record February in 2008 in terms of total monthly sales volume. Excluding fleet sales, sales were up 2.1 percent on a daily sales rate basis.

Toyota: Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA Inc. reported February sales of 182,169 vehicles, a decrease of 6.6 percent from last February.

The Toyota Division posted February sales of 160,892, a decrease of 6.3 percent from last February. The Lexus Division reported February sales of 21,277 units, a decrease of 9.3 percent from the year-ago month.

TMS posted February sales of 18,289 hybrid vehicles, a decrease of 7 percent from last February. Toyota Division posted sales of 16,952 hybrids while Lexus Division posted sales of 1,337 hybrids.

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