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Forecast: U.S. February Sales to Reach 16-Year High

Forecast: U.S. February Sales to Reach 16-Year High

High inventory levels will push monthly sales slightly ahead of year-ago.

A WardsAuto forecast calls for U.S. automakers to deliver 1.34 million light vehicles in February, a 16-year high for the month. A daily sales rate of 55,949 units over 24 days represents a 0.1% improvement from like-2016 (also 24 days).

The report puts the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales for the month at 17.70 million units, compared with year-ago’s 17.60 million and January’s 17.48 million mark.

U.S. dealers ended January with record-high inventory, and manufacturers are maintaining overall strong production plans, likely pushing February light-vehicle sales ahead of last year even though demand should be undergoing a cyclical downturn after seven straight years of increases through 2016.

Jan. 31’s inventory of 4.03 million units was 8.9% above the same year-ago total and the highest ever for the month by 140,000 units. WardsAuto expects February inventory to near 4.05 million units and leave the industry with a 72 days’ supply, down from 85 the prior month but above 69 in like-2016.

Car inventory, which ended January at a 93 days’ supply, remains troublesome for automakers unable to cut production enough or provide enough incentives to keep up with a consistent decline in demand.  Light-truck stock in January was up 15.5% from year-ago (84 days’ supply), but is at a healthy level for this time of year.

The forecasted LV sales total for February includes 858,000 light trucks, up 9.1% from February 2016 to account for 64% of sales. Cars make the up the remaining 36% with 485,000 units, dropping 12.7%.

General Motors is forecast to deliver 236,000 light vehicles, a 3.5% gain versus year-ago. The market’s No.1 automaker should account for 17.6% of the market, compared with 17.2% of January LV sales.

The report calls for Ford to slip 4.8% from year-ago, maintaining the No.2 sales spot with 201,000 LV deliveries. Ford will grab 15.0% of the market compared with 14.7% in the prior month.

Toyota’s sales are expected to fall 5.8%. The forecasted 177,000 LV deliveries will give the automaker a 13.2% share of the market.

FCA is projected to fall into fourth place with 12.9% share and 174,000 deliveries, down 6.7% from February 2016.

The forecast calls for Nissan to post a 0.8% uptick from year-ago with 132,000 sales. Honda is expected to grow 4.5% to 124,000 units for the month. Hyundai Group should see deliveries decline 2.7% to 100,000 LVs.

At forecast levels, February LV sales would bring year-to-date deliveries to 2.48 million units, down just 0.7% from same-period 2016. WardsAuto is forecasting 17.3 million LV sales for calendar 2017, but the market could exceed expectations if inventory remains exceptionally high.

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