Chrysler Group’s and Ford’s U.S. sales beat analysts’ expectations for February, bolstering Chrysler’s prediction that overall industry results will do the same.
Ford’s sales got a 14.4% lift, blowing past the 9.4% gain forecast by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Despite rising gas prices, Ford trucks sustained the biggest increase, up 20.6% from February 2011. After several months of year-over-year declines, sales of the Ford Focus more than doubled.
Chrysler’s sales increased 40% last month, obliterating the 26% sales gain estimate compiled by Bloomberg. The automaker forecast that U.S. sales reached a 14.9 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, which would be the highest since the crash of 2008. Analysts had told Bloomberg sales would match January’s pace of 14.2 million, as U.S. auto sales continue their drawn-out recovery from the lows of early 2009, when seasonally adjusted demand fell to about 9 million. Sales rates routinely landed in the 16-million range before the crash.
Chrysler’s cars powered its sales gain. Sales of the Chrysler 300 increased 480% from February 2011, while the smaller Chrysler 200 sustained a 315% sales boost. Jeep sales grew 30%, Dodge reported a 27% lift, and Ram truck sales increased 15%.
“Our product portfolio now contains some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in our company’s history,” said Reid Bigland, who heads Chrysler’s U.S. sales operations, in a statement. “A few years ago, higher fuel prices were a major threat to our total vehicle sales.”
Other automakers will report February sales gains throughout the day, against the backdrop of rising fuel prices. A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline cost an average of $3.74 this morning, up 30 cents from the beginning of February, according to AAA.
Chrissie Thompson, Detroit Free Press