Fueled by attractive incentives, U.S. automakers sold 1.07 million units in March – the best month since the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program sent sales skyrocketing last August.

While it was clear Toyota’s aggressive incentive policy forced other automakers to keep up with the Japanese automaker, experts said incentive spending didn’t markedly increase. Edmunds.com’s Jesse Caldwell said what increased were the marketing efforts surrounding the incentive programs.

"The industry didn't spike wildly" in incentive spending "as many people had thought it would," Caldwell said. "The major incentive programs by GM and Ford already had been in place for months prior. It was interesting what was happening in marketing communications versus what was happening in reality."

Insiders also attributed the surge to pent-up demand from the winter storms that impacted February sales and further economic stability. Insiders also pointed to a weak sales month last March when the industry was mired in a recession.

Most domestic and foreign automakers realized year-over-year increases in March. Ford and GM reported year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter increases in March sales, while Chrysler continued to struggle with an 8 percent decrease from the year-ago period. Honda, Hyundai and Nissan also reported similar sales increases last month.

The following is a breakdown of March sales by manufacturer:


Chrysler Group LLC reported total U.S. sales for March of 92,623 units, a decrease of 8 percent compared with March 2009 (101,001 units) and an increase of 10 percent from February 2010 (84,449 units).

Chrysler brand sales totaled 19,780 units, up 1 percent from the year-ago period. Jeep brand sales were 24,393 in March, up 3 percent from the year-ago period. Dodge brand sales reached 29,506 units, down 19 percent from March 2009. Ram brand sales totaled 18,944 units, down 11 percent from March 2009.

The company’s total car sales reached 23,055 units in March, down 3 percent from the year-ago period (23,668). Total truck sales reached 69,658 units, down 10 percent from March 2009 (77,333). First-quarter sales totaled 234,215 units, down 5 percent from the year-ago quarter.


Ford Motor Company’s sales, including Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo brands, totaled 183,783 units in March, up 39.8 percent from the year-ago period.

Ford brand sales reached 159,367 units, up 46 percent from March 2009. Lincoln brand sales totaled 8,693 units, up 19 percent from the year-ago period. Mercury brand sales totaled 10,486 units, up 26 percent from March 2009. First-quarter sales for all three brands totaled 428,596, up 37 percent from the year-ago quarter.

Total car sales were 71,015 in March, up 53 percent versus a year ago. Total utility sales were 47,908 last month, up 46 percent from the year-ago period. Total truck sales reached 59,623 units, up 30 percent from last month. First-quarter sales for all three vehicle types totaled 428,596, up 37.5 percent from the year-ago quarter.

Ford’s sales increase also helped the automaker gain retail market share for the 17th time in the last 18 months.

General Motors

General Motors reported total combined sales of 185,406 units in March for its Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands, a 34 percent increase from February 2010 and a 43.3 percent increase from March 2009.

Chevrolet sales totaled 133,165 units, up 40.6 percent from March 2009. Buick sales increase 75.8 percent to 12,954 units. GMC sales totaled 27,648 units, up 44.9 percent. Cadillac sales totaled 11,639 units, up 41.8 percent from March 2009.

GM’s total vehicle sales reached 188,546 units in March, up 20.6 percent from the year-ago period. First-quarter sales for all vehicles reached 477,322 units, up 15.6 percent from the year-ago quarter.

First-quarter sales for the four brands totaled 469,353 units, up 35.6 percent from the year-ago quarter.


American Honda Motor Co. Inc. posted March sales of 108,262 vehicles, an increase of 17.8 percent based on the daily selling rate.

Honda Division posted March sales of 96,540, an increase of 16.9 percent versus March 2009. Honda’s total car sales reached 55,341 units, up 7.8 percent. Every Honda light-truck model posted a sales increase for the month, up 31.9 percent overall, with total sales of 41,199.

Acura Division sales increased 25.2 percent to 11,722. Acura car sales posted an increase of 15.6 percent for a total of 7,152. Acura trucks sales totaled 4,570, up 43.7 percent.

First-quarter sales totaled 256,412 units, an increase of 12.5 percent based on the daily selling rate.


Hyundai Motor America recorded its best-ever March sales and best-ever first-quarter sales. The company sold 47,002 vehicles, up 15.4 percent from the year-ago period. This marked the 15th consecutive month of year-over-year retail market share gains for Hyundai.

In the first quarter 2010, Hyundai sold 111,509 vehicles, an increase from the 95,854 units sold in the year-ago quarter. The total also outpaced the company’s 2006 first-quarter sales record.

On a year-over-year basis, Sonata was up 52.6 percent, Tucson was up 129.1 percent, Santa Fe was up 62.8 percent, and Genesis was up 31.9 percent, marking the 9th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gain for Genesis.


Nissan North America Inc. (NNA) reported March 2010 sales of 95,468 units versus 66,634 units a year earlier, an increase of 43.3 percent from the year-ago month.

Nissan Division sales totaled 85,526 units, an increase of 44 percent over March 2009. Nissan had a record March in passenger car sales, with 59,203 total units sold, an increase of 54.2 percent from the year-ago period. Truck sales totaled 26,323 units, up 25.4 percent from the year-ago period.

Infiniti Division sales for March came in at 9,942 units, up 37.3 percent from the 7,242 units sold in year-ago period. This was Infiniti’s best sales month since August 2008. Passenger cars sales totaled 7,111, an increase of 48.4 percent. Truck sales totaled 2,831, an increase of 15.6 percent.

First-quarter sales totaled 228,229 units, up 30.6 percent from the year-ago period.


Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) U.S.A. Inc. reported March sales of 186,863 units, an increase of 35.3 percent over the same period last year (based on a daily selling rate (DSR)).

On a DSR basis, Toyota Division recorded March sales of 166,644 vehicles, an increase of 35.1 percent over the year-ago month. Toyota Division passenger cars recorded March sales of 94,221 units, an increase of 23.5 percent over the same period last year. Toyota Division light trucks posted sales of 72,423 units in March, an increase of 54.1 percent over last March. 

Lexus Division reported sales of 20,219 units in March, up 36.5 percent from March 2009. Lexus passenger car sales totaled 10,060 units in March, up 34.1 percent over the year-ago month. Lexus light trucks recorded sales of 10,159 units, up 39 percent over last March. 

TMS posted March sales of 16,714 hybrid vehicles. Toyota Division posted sales of 13,929 hybrids for the month. Lexus Division reported sales 2,785 hybrids in March.

For the first quarter, TMS reported sales of 385,686 vehicles, an increase of 8.7 percent over the same period in 2009 (on a DSR basis).