U.S. auto sales surged in February and several automakers reported better-than-expected sales in the period, as consumers keep taking advantages of cheap oil and low interest.
Auto sales rose as much as 8 percent in February, compared with the month a year ago. This is the best February sale in more than 15 years.
“February had an extra day this year, but that alone can’t account for the massive new vehicle sales reported last month,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with the auto research firm Kelley Blue Book.
Most of automakers reported substantial increases in sales in February, particularly for two of the major America automakers, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler.
Ford Motor Co. reports an increase of 20 percent in sales, topping analysis’ estimate of 12.6 percent. The company sold a total 216,045 vehicles last month, including the three best sales categories: cars, SUVs and pickups.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also posted strong sales in February. The sales rose 12 percent to 182,879 vehicles, topping analysis’ estimate of 9.2 percent. Its Jeep brand sales shot up 23%, with the Cherokee, Wrangler, Patriot and Compass recording their best February ever. Dodge brand sales picked up 12%.
However, General Motors Co., the nation’s largest automaker, surprisingly reported a decline in sales in February. It reported total sales of 227,825 vehicles, 1.5 percent lower over a year earlier. Analysts projected 5.1 percent increase for GM.
Other automakers also posted strong results. Nissan, Hyundai-Kia and Honda provided strong sales beating analysis’ estimates. However, Sales for Volkswagen AG’s namesake and Audi brands fell 8.4 percent, a bigger decline than predicted as the German automaker still struggled from diesel-emissions scandal.
“The industry will use any holiday to pick up the megaphone and let people know they have vehicles for sale,” said AutoTrader’s Krebs. “We had seen this around Memorial Day and Fourth of July and Labor Day, and Presidents Day has been included in that now.”