March sales decreases at Ford, Honda, Toyota and FCA overshadowed gains at Nissan and General Motors, casting doubt on forecasts that the U.S. industry would ride generous incentives to its first monthly advance of the year. A 3.2 percent increase at Nissan kept its 2017 winning streak alive, while GM climbed for a second consecutive month. Ford, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler are still seeking their first monthly gains of the year, while American Honda fell for the first time.
Results released so far suggest the industry — despite strong truck demand — will struggle to meet analysts’ forecasts for the industry’s first sales increase of 2017.
“The industry might see its first dip below a 17 million SAAR since June 2016, although it will likely be nearly flat to last March,” said Jack Hollis, general manger of the Toyota division, said in a statement.
GM today pegged March’s seasonally adjusted annual sales rate at 17 million. That would be up from the 16.66 million mark of a year earlier but below the 17.4 million predicted by the most optimistic analysts. Nissan Motor Co. benefited from a strong demand for crossovers, a double-digit increase in incentives and a big jump at Infiniti. Volume edged up 0.5 percent at the Nissan brand and 33 percent at Infiniti. The automaker said car volume dropped 15 percent while truck sales surged 29 percent, with record truck volume of 77,258 at the Nissan brand. ALG estimates Nissan’s average incentive on new vehicles rose to $4,074 last month, 18 percent higher than a year earlier.
At GM, sales edged up 1.6 percent on a 5 percent rise in retail sales and a 21 percent increase in incentive spending. Volume rose 12 percent at GMC and 15 percent at Buick but slipped 2.2 percent at Chevrolet and 1.5 percent at Cadillac.
Sales dropped 7.2 percent at Ford Motor Co. The automaker recorded a 17 percent drop in fleet shipments, 24 percent plunge in car sales and a 1.5 percent dip in retail demand. Sales declined 7.4 percent at the Ford division and 1.4 percent at Lincoln, ending a seven-month streak of gains for the luxury brand.
Honda Motor Co. posted a slight decline in March as record truck demand failed to overcome weaker car volume and sharply lower Acura deliveries. Sales at the Honda brand rose 1.8 percent but dropped 21 percent at Acura. American Honda said its truck sales rose 8.4 percent, setting a March record at the Honda division — 61,975, up 13 percent — while car demand skidded 8.7 percent, with Accord deliveries dropping 12 percent and Civic volume down 4 percent.
At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, sales declined 4.4 percent as demand fell for a seventh straight month. Jeep, which had been the automaker’s post-recession mainstay, was down 11 percent and hasn’t seen a sales gain since August. The Chrysler and Fiat brands were also down, while Dodge and Ram were up.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s 2.1 percent decline marked its smallest setback of the year. The Toyota division slipped 1.2 percent, while Lexus dropped 7.5 percent.