Despite the threat of rising gas prices, the U.S. auto industry continued its uptick in February. Pent-up demand in the auto market, a strengthening economy, and new products from automakers contributed to an overall sales increase of 15.7 percent over February 2011. International brands were up 18 percent.
International nameplates made a strong showing in February. Volkswagen led the pack – logging its strongest February for sales since 1973 – with sales up 42.5 percent over February 2011. Mazda also demonstrated a 32.3 percent sales increase, while Hyundai improved by 17.5 percent, and Subaru was up 17 percent. Honda and Toyota both turned in a month of strong auto sales, up 13.3 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.
“New products are converging with pent up demand and an improving economy, resulting in strong sales for international dealers,” said AIADA President Cody Lusk. “I am confident 2012 will continue to be the best year our industry has seen in quite awhile.”
Internationals Occupy Majority Market Share
International brands maintained their hold on a majority of the U.S. auto market in February. They occupied a 54.9 percent share, down slightly from 55.8 percent last month. They accounted for 631,152 units sold, up from 509,793 in January.
Asian brands sold 530,686 units and held a 46.1 percent share of the market – up 15.8 percent over last February. European nameplates sold 100,466 units and occupied 8.7 percent of the U.S. auto market; the numbers demonstrate a 30.8 percent improvement over February 2011. Domestic brands finished the month with a 45.1 percent share of the market and sales of 518,244 units.
The Toyota Camry continued to lead the pack of five international vehicles on this month’s list of the top ten selling vehicles. At number two, sales of the model were up 26.9 percent over last February. The Nissan Altima continued its climb up the chart, moving up one spot from last month into third place; sales for the sedan were up 58.4 percent. In fifth, the Honda Civic experienced a 41.7 percent sales improvement, while the newly-redesigned CR-V crossover logged a sixth place finish for the month, with sales up 29.7 percent. At number nine, the Toyota Corolla/Matrix rounded out the international nameplates on February’s top ten list.
The small car segment demonstrated the biggest improvement in February, with sales up 26.5 percent. The mid-size car segment also grew by 25.6 percent, while the luxury car segment was up 22.7 percent over February 2011. Overall, Americans continued to prefer SUVs/crossovers, purchasing 323,446 units. In contrast, sales for the large car segment decreased dramatically; the segment sold only 1,007 units and was down 85.8 percent since last February.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for light vehicles was estimated by AutoData Corp. at 15.1 million units – the highest since February 2008.