The strong U.S. light vehicle sales in Mar 2014 continued in April, on the back of healthy retail sales, impact of delayed purchases due to the severe winter weather in January and February, high incentives and the spring selling season. Sales during the month increased 8% from the year-ago level to 1.39 million.
Sales on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) basis increased to 16.1 million in Apr 2014 from the year-ago level of 15.2 million units. However, SAAR went down sequentially from 16.4 million in March.
Most large automakers like General Motors Co. ( GM ), Toyota Motor Corp. ( TM ), Chrysler and Nissan Motor Co.Ltd. ( NSANY ) reported increase in sales in Apr 2014, although Ford Motor Co. ( F ) reported a decline. Nissan led in terms of the year-over-year sales growth rate, while General Motors had the highest sales volume.
Let's look at the U.S. sales figures reported by the individual automakers.
General Motors recorded 254,076 vehicle sales in April, up 7% year over year. Retail sales also increased 8%, while fleet sales improved 5%. The company is set to launch many vehicles in 2014, which are likely to improve sales in the coming months.
Ford reported a 1% decline in total sales from the year-ago period to 211,126 vehicles in Apr 2014. Retail sales fell 1% year over year to 141,950 units. However, commercial and government fleet sales increased significantly.
Chrysler Group - controlled by Italy's Fiat S.p.A ( FIATY ) - recorded a 14% year-over-year rise in sales, pulling the figure up to 178,652 vehicles. Chrysler witnessed a year-over-year increase in monthly sales for 49 consecutive months. Moreover, this is the best April sales for the group since 2007.
Toyota's sales increased 9% year over year on daily selling rate (DSR) basis and 13.3% on volume basis to 199,660 units in Apr 2014. Sales in the Toyota division improved 11.7% based on volume and 7.4% on DSR basis to 176,495 units. Lexus sales rose 23.1% on DSR basis and 28% on volume basis to 23,165 units.
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. ( HMC ) recorded a 1.1% year-over-year increase in sales on volume basis to 132,456 vehicles in Apr 2014. However, sales on DSR basis decreased 2.8%. Sales in the Honda Division increased 1.1% on volume basis to 118,334 units but fell 2.8% on DSR basis. Sales of the Acura Division increased 1.6% on volume basis but fell 2.3% on DSR basis to 14,122 vehicles.
Nissan Motor posted an 18.3% year-over-year increase in sales to 103,934 vehicles in April. Sales in the Nissan division also climbed 18.5% to 94,764 units. Even sales of the Infiniti Division hiked 16.9% to 9,170 units in the month.
Improvement in the U.S. auto sales in the last two months is expected to continue in the months ahead, backed by a strong outlook for 2014. In the long term, sales are expected to rise on the back of strong pent-up demand, easier car financing and low gas prices.
Additionally, improving macroeconomic conditions, such as low interest rates, reduced unemployment rates, improving consumer confidence and recovery of the housing market are likely to boost sales. These catalysts are expected to drive the U.S. auto sales to pre-recession levels.
As the automobile sector is a key industry, improving auto sales will help in reviving the overall U.S. economy. Ford expects the U.S. industry volume to range within 16-17 million units in 2014, compared with 15.6 million units sold in 2013. Meanwhile, General Motors expects industry sales in the range of 16-16.5 million in 2014, while Toyota expects it to be about 16 million.