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NADA: SAAR Stays Above 15M in March Despite Sales Growth Slowdown

April 11, 2013

MCLEAN, Va. — Despite a slight slowdown, new-vehicle sales improved again in March to 1.45 million units sold, good for a 3.4 percent lift vs. last year’s 1.4 million-unit total, according to the NADA Used Car Guide. For the quarter, new-vehicles sales increase 6.3 percent from a year ago to 3.67 million units sold.

The research firm also found that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in March slipped to 15.2 million from February’s rate of 15.3 million. But March did mark the fifth straight month the SAAR exceeded 15 million units.

“At a brand level, all of GM’s respective makes reported gains last month,” read the NADA Used Car Guide’s industry update for April. “Buick once again led the non-luxury group with a 37 percent lift in sales followed by GMC’s 12 percent rise and Chevrolet’s slight have-a-percent gain. For Buick, Enclave utility and Verano compact sedan sales continue to fuel the brand’s recent success with Enclave sales up over 55 percent, while sales growth for the Verano was an almost equally impressive 43 percent.”

Chevrolet sales improved for many of the brand’s trucks, including the Silverado pickup where deliveries grew by 8 percent, but losses for the company’s impala (down 22 percent), Malibu (down 22 percent), and Sonic (down 16 percent) car essentially offset truck growth, the firms’ report indicated.

Additionally, sales at Jeep fell for the sixth month in a row in March, this time by 13 percent, which pushed losses for the first quarter to 12 percent.

Not even an 11 percent improvement in sales of the 200 series could stop sales at Chrysler from sliding for the second month in a row, this time by 2 percent. Dragging down sales were the 300 series and Town & Country, which were down 23 and 7 percent, respectively.

“Not all was bad for Chrysler Group last month, as volume-leading Dodge managed to post a 19 percent gain to extend the brand’s positive run to three month,” read the Used Car Guide’s report. “Sales of the Avenger and Challenger cars improved by 33 and 42 percent, respectively, while deliveries of the recently reworked Ram pickup increased by 29 percent.”

Ford sales at Honda bounced back from February’s disappointing performance, with the brand managing a 5 percent gain in deliveries. The results of Honda’s efforts to increase awareness of its Accord and Civic redesigns through a slew of TV commercials delivered mixed results, as Accord sales grew by more than 36 percent, while deliveries of the Civic improved by just 1 percent.

Nissan sales were essentially flat (0.4 percent increase) despite the Altima managing to wrest the title of best-selling mid-size car from Toyota’s Camry. Sales of the redesigned car fell by 8 percent.

“Things went better for the brand’s new Pathfinder utility, as sales grew by more than 177 percent in the month.”

Toyota sales slipped by 0.4 percent compared to last year, as deliveries of the new Avalon (up 110 percent) and Camry (down 12 percent) moved in opposite directions.

Korean brands Kia and Hyundai both experienced declines for March. Kia sale fell for the second month in a row, this time by 15 percent. And not a single Kia model showed sales growth in March, including its once hot Sonata sedan, which saw sales fall by 23 percent.

As for the luxury segment, Cadillac posted a 50 percent increase in deliveries in March, with the all-new XTS and ATS sedans being the primary catalyst behind the growth. The story was different for Lincoln, which saw deliveries drop by 23 percent. Sales of the recently updated MKS and MKZ sedans were down 45 and 20 percent, respectively.

BMW brand sales improved 13 percent, while Mercedes-Benz reported 7 percent sales growth. “Year to date, Mercedes has an 8,000-unit lead over BMW in the luxury sales race,” read the report.

Acura sales were up 26 percent due in large part to the new RDX compact utility deliveries, while Lexus and Infiniti sales grew 15 and 9 percent, respectively. Lexus’ redesigned EX was a big winner for the month, with deliveries increasing 116 percent, while strong sales of Infiniti’s new JX utility offset declines across the rest of the brand’s lineup.

The Used Car Guide’s report also offered a look at incentive spending. Per Autodata Corp., spending increased 1 percent vs. last year to $2,573. For the quarter, spending averaged $2,485, a 0.8 percent reduction from last year’s level.

“After falling in the seven months prior, incentive spending inched up over the past two months,” the firm reported. “While it’s a bit early to call it a trend, it would come as little surprise if spending growth continued over the coming months, especially if the new sales rate remains flat as expected.”  

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