Huge Leap in Ford U.S. Sales Beats Rival GM

Ford Motor Co. reported a huge gain for February U.S. sales, 43 percent, which tops the monthly sales numbers of its auto industry rival, General Motors Co.

Last month, Ford sold a total of 142,006 light vehicles, which is 471 more than GM, which had a jump in sales of 12 percent. The last time Ford was able to take top honors over GM was in July of 1998, when the company suffered a strike at its parts unit in Delphi. Since 1931, GM has been at the top for annual sales.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. actually did better than auto analysts predicted, only falling 9 percent due to the company’s recent recall crisis. Chrysler Group was the other automaker reporting a decline, rising less than one percent. American Honda reported being up 13 percent.

Analysts have predicted that industry wide annual sales will likely be near 10.4 million units, which is lower than January but higher than the previous year’s levels were at the very lowest point during the worst downturn the industry has seen in almost thirty years.

To make matters worse, sales were depressed by massive snowfall in the mid-Atlantic region for several days in February. Jack Nerad, analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s, says the snowfall affected what is proving to be a very fragile recovery.

Although GM’s sales for February were up, demand for cars is only around half of pre-recession levels. GM’s totals for last month were 141,535. In February 2008, the company sold 268,737 units.

The recovery has been slow, but the industry is seeing some bright spots. Ford’s rise in sales for last month comes after a 25 percent leap in January and a 33 percent rise in December. Subaru is also enjoying a healthy rise in sales, 38 percent for February, and is the only brand that raises U.S. sales in each of the past two years.

Jeff Schuster, who is forecasting director for J.D. Power and Associates, said this before the numbers were reported today: The pace of the recovery has hit a speed bump. This hiccup appears to be the result of consumers waiting out the Toyota recalls and winter storms impacting showroom traffic.

A Reuters survey of some auto analysts says U.S. auto sales will rise more than 10 percent to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 10.5 million in February. A Bloomberg News poll reflects similar thinking, with the eight analysts polled projecting a SAAR of 10.3 million.

If these numbers hold true, it would mean a rise from 9.05 million from the previous year, but a decline from 10.5 million in January.

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