BANDON, Ore. — CNW Research’s True Delivery Rate for March has industry sales tracking at a 15.5 to 15.7 million annual rate, with floor traffic and closing rations both ahead of last year.

Floor traffic in the opening days of March was up nearly 3 percent, while closing ratios were up by more than 2 percent vs. a year ago. These figures predict a decent 5-plus percent sales gain in the first 15 days of March vs. a year ago, and as much as 6.5 percent for the full month, according to the report.

Last month, Pent Up Demand numbers were up 8 percent after shrinking in January to 11.3 percent. Early data for March shows an increase — perhaps as much as 10 percent — indicating the early considerations of making a new-car acquisition are building despite the payroll tax hike and a delay in income tax refunds.

“The downside of the Pent Up Demand data is the slight decrease in the number of intenders who now say they still plan to acquire a vehicle even though they delayed their purchase plans,” stated CNW’s Art Spinella in the report. “In February, 94.6 percent of those who delayed an acquisition reported they still expect to make a new-car purchase within six months. That’s down from 95.4 percent in January.”

The length of that delay is up from 3.9 months in January to about 4 months, he added.

On another note, subprime approvals experienced a 26 percent increase in the opening weeks of March, a slowdown from the 35-plus year-over-year percentage point gain in the past six months.

Leasing penetration reached 27-plus percent in the opening days of March, up more than 5 percent compared to a year ago. “Combined, these increases, if continued for the year, would mean a solid 200,000 additional sales over and above the core or base outlook,” Spinella wrote.