Vehicle sales continue their climb despite rising gas prices

Mar 2, 2012

Apparently, the week-over-week increase in gasoline prices isn’t deterring U.S. consumers from purchasing new automobiles and trucks. Optimism regarding the economy, a strengthening job market and a growing demand for U.S. goods are some of the indicators that consumers might be buying new vehicles. That, along with better credit opportunities.

Most automakers, domestic and foreign, continue to post year-over-year sales increases, with overall U.S. sales this year tracking 16% over the same time last year.

VW should especially impressive gains with a 43% increase in February 2012 over February 2011. Chrysler, which has a run of 23 months of increasing sales, saw a year-over-year gain of 40%.

Ford posted gains of 14% over 20111 and GM, which dropped in January, got a small bump of 1%.

Mazda North American Operations reported strong February U.S. sales representing an increase of 32.3% versus last year and best February total sales since 1994.

Kia and its sibling company Hyundai realized 37% and 18% boosts respectively, while Subaru came in at 17% over 2011 and Honda and Toyota saw 12% increases. Nissan beat its two main Japanese rivals with a 16% February 2012 over February 2011 jump.

Audi reported its 14th straight record-setting month of sales with February’s 2012 results surpassing the prior February record set in 2011. Closing in on a promising first quarter, year-over-year vehicle sales increased 10% over February 2011, and recorded 14.9% year-to-date growth compared to 2011.

“We are optimistic that Audi is on track to make 2012 another banner year for the company,” said Audi of America’s president, Johan de Nysschen.

“With gas prices rising, more than one-fifth of all cars sold in February will be subcompact or compact cars, yet transaction prices continue to rise as consumers are looking for highly-equipped vehicles,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of Market Intelligence for TrueCar.com. “Hyundai/Kia continues to see the strongest gains in transaction prices, rising nearly 10 percent from last year.”

In addition, TrueCar.com estimated that the average incentive for light-vehicles was $2,468 in February 2012, down $109 (4.2%) from February 2011 and down $14 (0.6%) from January 2012.

“Japanese automakers have replenished their inventory, which bodes well for consumers looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Kristen Andersson, senior analyst of market intelligence for TrueCar.com. “If gas prices continue to rise, car buyers can expect to see incentives decline on fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Trucks gained 9% in February; “that was the highest total for the month since 2008,” reported Automotive News’ Jesse Snyder.

“Even full-sizes pickups did well in February. The Ford F-series remained America’s best-selling nameplate … up 26%. The Chevrolet Silverado gained 2% … while the Ram pickup jumped 21%.”

Truck sales, though, can prove more volatile as prices rise.

“Buying new trucks can be a good strategy for truck owners dealing with high gas prices, since newer trucks typically get better mileage than the older versions on the road,” reported CNN. “But typically gas price spikes lead to sharp drops in truck purchases, as potential buyers don’t want to commit to a loan payment until they see how much they’ll have to pay at the pump. For example, in May and June of 2008, as gas prices approached and hit $4 a gallon for the first time, truck sales fell by more than 20% compared to a year earlier.”