U.S. Light-Vehicle SAAR Forecast to Rise in February

U.S. Light-Vehicle SAAR Forecast to Rise in February

The WardsAuto forecast calls for U.S. auto makers to sell 1.09 million LVs this month, lifting the SAAR to 14 million-plus units for a second consecutive month.

U.S. light-vehicle deliveries will near 1.1 million units in February, a 6.2% increase in daily sales over year-ago that would lift the seasonally adjusted annual rate to a 45-month high, WardsAuto forecasts.

The WardsAuto report calls for U.S. auto makers to deliver 1,095,000 cars and light trucks over 25 selling days this month, compared with 24 in January and 24 year-ago, for a 37,000-unit daily sales rate.

The DSR equates to a 14.3 million-unit SAAR, the highest since May 2008, just prior to the summer gas price crisis that decimated sales and before the financial crisis hit, sending the U.S. into recession.

February’s projected 15.8% rise in daily sales from January is in line with recent historical trends.

The exception is year-ago’s 21% month-to-month jump that came as auto makers launched widespread incentives in February in response to General Motors’ unexpectedly aggressive January campaign.

Because of the situational spike in sales last year, WardsAuto expects February’s comparison with like-2011 to be well below the 10%-plus growth seen in recent months.

TheWardsAuto forecast calls for the Detroit Three to deliver close to 500,000 cars and light trucks, accounting for 44.2% of LV sales, with daily volume up 4.5% over year-ago.

GM, relying less on fleet sales than it did last year, should sell roughly 200,000 LVs in February, reducing its DSR 6% or more, while Ford, still pursuing a relatively high fleet-to-retail mix, likely will see a 6% increase.

Chrysler is expected to extend its double-digit growth on the way to post-bankruptcy recovery, with daily sales climbing 26.5% as the auto maker continues its shift to a more balanced car-truck delivery mix.

Toyota plants have been working overtime in recent months to make up production lost last spring and summer, The auto maker should have plenty of product to drive sales back up to year-ago (pre-tsunami) levels.

WardsAuto looks for Toyota to account for 13.6% of sales, or 149,000 units, in February, boosting its DSR 1.0% over year-ago.

Nissan and Honda will vie for second place among Asia/Pacific auto makers in the U.S. Nissan likely will continue to aggressively pursue volume fleet sales, while Honda works to reassert itself as the consistent No.2 Japanese auto maker.

WardsAutosees Honda deliveries climbing to just shy of 100,000 units in February, down 3% from year-ago as inventory struggles to meet demand. Nissan sales are projected slightly lower, finishing at 95,000, although it would not surprise if the two auto makers swapped their sales rankings this month.

Hyundai and Kia sales remain constricted by a supply cap that consistently keeps their combined DSR in the 3,200-3,600-unit range. The WardsAuto forecast calls for the South Korean auto makers to deliver just over a combined 3,500 units, up 8.0% from year-ago and accounting for 8.0% of February sales.

European brands are projected to take a 9.7% share of this month’s U.S. deliveries, up two points from year-ago, led by Volkswagen and Audi, which are expected to combine for nearly 4% of LV sales.

Theforecast volume would bring 2010 LV sales through February to just over 2 million units, 11% better than last year’s 2-month tally.

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