U.S. light-vehicle sales, dampened by lower fleet shipments and severe winter weather across large chunks of the country, fell 3 percent in January.
U.S. light-vehicle sales declined in January at General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and the VW brand as severe winter weather and lower fleet deliveries dampened showroom traffic.
Nissan Motor Co., Chrysler Group and Subaru bucked the industry with solid sales gains, while Hyundai said its deliveries edged higher.
Among major automakers reporting results, Nissan led the gains with January volume rising 12 percent to 90,470 units, a record for the month. Volume advanced 10 percent at the Nissan division and 26 percent at Infiniti.
Chrysler sales rose 8 percent, with the Jeep brand and Ram pickup helping drive the company to its 46th consecutive monthly increase.
Sales dropped 12 percent at GM and 8 percent at Ford, with both companies posting lower retail and fleet shipments. Toyota said deliveries declined 7 percent and Honda reported a 2 percent dip.
At GM, volume fell 1 percent at Buick, 13 percent at Cadillac and Chevrolet, and 10 percent at GMC. GM’s retail sales dropped 10 percent year over year, although retail deliveries of passenger cars rose slightly, and fleet deliveries declined 18 percent.
At Ford, retail volume declined 5 percent and fleet volume dropped 14 percent. Ford blamed weather for delays in some fleet shipments. Volume declined 8 percent at the Ford division while Lincoln shipments surged 43 percent to 5,973 units.
Chrysler’s Jeep volume rose 38 percent last month while Ram pickup deliveries increased 22 percent to more than 25,000 units, Chrysler said. Deliveries of the new Jeep Cherokee totaled 10,505 units last month. Sales jumped 29 percent at Fiat and 2 percent at the Chrysler brand, but skidded 19 percent at Dodge, with every Dodge car line posting a double-digit decline in volume. Overall, Chrysler’s car sales slumped 21 percent while light truck demand advanced 25 percent.
Toyota, in a preview of its sales, said volume dipped 7 percent last month. “January was off to a solid start, but the weather condition slowed industry sales in key markets late in the month,” Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “We’re pleased with our retail sales, strong truck results and expect to see growth back in February.”
Analysts said January’s winter weather had a chilling effect on demand beyond the nation’s traditional snow belt.
A preliminary study by Edmunds.com found the second polar vortex last month affected 37 states, which account for about 61 percent of all new light-vehicle deliveries.
Hyundai reported sales grew by less than 1 percent to 44,005 vehicles in January — still a record for the month — but also cited cold and snowy conditions for its results.
Mazda’s U.S. sales declined 12 percent to 18,813 units last month. Audi sales remained flat with strong sales of the Q5 and Q7 SUVs offsetting a dip in sales of the A4 sedan and A5 coupe. The luxury brand, which posted a 14 percent gain in U.S. sales in 2013, predicted further growth in 2014, driven by the launch of the new A3 sedan this spring.
Volkswagen deliveries fell 19 percent, its fifth straight month of double-digit declines, as sales of the American-made Passat sedan plummeted 30 percent. The brand expects to operate at a “steady pace” in 2014, Volkswagen of America’s new vice president of sales, Mark Barnes, said in a statement.
Subaru, coming off a record year, said January sales jumped 19 percent to 33,000 units — a record for the month.
At Jaguar Land Rover North America, volume increased 15 percent in January to 6,021 units — its best January since 2004.
The annualized selling pace, which is adjusted for seasonal trends, is expected to accelerate to 15.7 million cars and light trucks, based on early surveys of economists and analysts by Bloomberg and Reuters.
January is traditionally the weakest month of the year for light-vehicle unit sales, and severe cold and snowstorms discouraged deliveries further last month.
The average industry incentive for light vehicles was $2,452 in January, down 3 percent, or $80, from January 2013 and down 10 percent, or $284, from December 2013, TrueCar estimated.
Automakers and analysts are forecasting another year of higher industry sales, though the gain is expected to be lower than the 8 percent rise in 2013 industry volumes.
The average U.S. transaction price for light vehicles was $30,934 in January, up 3 percent, or $804, from January 2013 but down 1 percent, or $422, from December 2013, TrueCar estimated.
Average transaction prices continue to rise and are at the highest levels in the last five years.
“The industry couldn’t ask for a more ideal start to the year with transaction prices up and incentive spending down,” said Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar and president of ALG. “Whether this type of healthy growth is sustainable remains to be seen.”