International brands performed well in February, recording a 28.3 percent increase in sales over the same month in 2010. The U.S. auto industry overall was up 27.3 percent. February sales were driven by the increasing availability of credit and growing consumer confidence. Rising gas prices also contributed to a surge in small, fuel-sipping vehicle sales. Some of the biggest gains were seen by Asian automakers Honda (up 21.7 percent from a year ago), Hyundai (up 28 percent), and Toyota (up a substantial 48.5 percent). Toyota, which had its best February ever for Prius sales, sold a total of 141,846 vehicles, coming in behind General Motors (207,028) and Ford (156,232) in the U.S market.
"The year is off to a strong start for our dealers," said AIADA President Cody Lusk. "We expect to see gradual but steady growth in the sale of international nameplates throughout 2011 as credit continues to become more available and Americans look for ways to save on gas without sacrificing comfort or reliability."
Internationals Maintain Majority Market Share
International brands occupied 53.8 percent of the U.S. auto market, a slight decrease from the 54.2 percent they held in January. Asian automakers held 46.1 percent of the market, up from 45.2 percent in January, while European brands ended the month with 7.7 percent of the market, down from 9 percent in January. International brands sold 535,025 vehicles during the month, up from 443,900 in January and an improvement over the 417,013 vehicles they sold in February 2010. Of those, Asian nameplates sold 458,220 units, logging a 31.1 percent increase over February 2010. European brands sold 76,805 units, up 13.7 percent from February 2010. Domestic brands sold 458,362 vehicles in February and were up 26.2 percent.
International nameplates captured six of the top ten selling vehicle spots. In January and December, they held five. The Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado Pickup trucks remained the top two selling vehicles. However, the Toyota Camry regained its title from the Corolla as the top selling car in the U.S. by moving into the month's third position with sales of 27,212 units, up an impressive 64.4 percent over last February. The Honda Accord, which slid to number 13 last month, rejoined the top ten in February. It moved into the sixth slot, with sales of 21,206 units that represented a 5.9 percent increase over February 2010. Honda had the most vehicles in the top ten - the Accord, Civic, and CR-V. Every vehicle in the top ten was up by an average of 39.6 percent, although the Camry (up 64.4 percent), CR-V (up 61.4 percent), and Chevrolet Silverado (up 60.1 percent) demonstrated the biggest improvements.
Americans continued to prefer SUVs and Crossovers, purchasing 315,227 units during the month. As usual, the midsize car segment followed with sales of 242,532 vehicles. Car sales were up 23.1 percent overall, while light duty trucks were up 31.7 percent. The pickup truck segment scored the biggest improvement in February, up 36.4 percent. Asian nameplates sold 278,637 cars and 179,583 trucks, while European nameplates sold 54,224 cars and 22,581 trucks. Domestic nameplates finished the month with sales of 158,133 cars and 300,229 trucks.
Overall sales, including domestic brands, were up 27.3 percent from February 2011. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicle sales was estimated by AutoData Corp. at 13.4 million units, up from 10.53 in February 2010. Last month was the strongest in auto sales since August 2009, when the Government's Cash for Clunkers program was in full swing.
See below for a complete breakdown of February 2011 monthly and year-to-date sales by international nameplate.