Honda Motor Co. and Detroit’s three automakers, setting the pace, posted March sales gains of 5 to 7 percent, signaling the spring selling season is off to a solid start for the U.S. auto industry.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group were helped by strong sales of large pickups, crossovers and new models. At Honda, volume rose 7 percent last month, with deliveries at the Honda division up 5 percent on a surge in Accord demand and Acura sales advancing 26 percent.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. said March sales edged up 1 percent. Overall, volume was flat at the Toyota division, while Lexus sales rose 15 percent. Toyota’s results reflected the second consecutive, double-digit decline in Camry sales.
At the VW Group, sales rose 8 percent, led by a 42 percent increase at Porsche and a 14 percent gain at Audi. VW brand sales edged up 3 percent.
At Hyundai Motor America, March sales slid 2 percent to 68,306, according to a Twitter post by CEO John Krafcik.
At GM and Ford, volume climbed 6 percent. Cadillac set the pace at GM, with sales up 50 percent, followed by a 37 percent rise at Buick. GMC rose 12 percent while volume edged up 0.5 percent at Chevrolet, GM’s biggest division.
Car sales, down 3 percent, were the only drag on GM’s results last month. While the company benefited from deliveries of the new Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Spark and Buick Enclave, sales of the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Regal slumped.
At Ford, sales at the Ford division rose 7 percent, but Lincoln deliveries were down 23 percent.
Sales of the Fusion mid-sized sedan and Escape crossover set all-time monthly records, and F-series pickup deliveries climbed 16 percent, Ford said.
Overall, Ford Motor’s car sales slipped 0.2 percent, while utility vehicle deliveries
Chrysler Group, helped by strong car and Ram pickup volume, said its March deliveries rose 5 percent, extending the company’s stretch of U.S. sales gains to a record 36 months.
The sales milestone tops a previous U.S. sales streak of 35 consecutive months from February 1992 through December 1994, Chrysler said.
Car sales rose 21 percent while light-truck volume slid 2 percent last month at the company. Deliveries rose 3 percent at the Fiat brand and 15 percent at Dodge.
Sales of the Ram pickup jumped 25 percent to 33,831, an all-time monthly record, helping overall Ram brand sales rise 24 percent, but volume slipped 2 percent at the Chrysler brand and 13 percent at Jeep.
It was the sixth straight monthly sales decline at Jeep. The discontinuation of the Jeep Liberty SUV in August 2012 and the launch of a refreshed Grand Cherokee have dampened Jeep inventories and sales.
At Kia, deliveries fell 15 percent in March to 49,125 vehicles, with sales of Forte compact accounting for much of the shortfall. Overall, Kia sold 126,932 vehicles in the first quarter, down 8 percent from the same period last year.
At Jaguar Land Rover North America, March sales increased 4 percent, with sales for the year rising 14 percent.
The new BRZ sports car and Crosstrek crossover, along with the redesigned Forester, helped March sales at Subaru rise 13 percent to 36,701 units – a monthly record for the company.
Automakers are counting on pent-up demand, new models, and a favorable financing and credit environment to keep the industry’s recovery on track this year. At the same time, pickup and SUV demand is getting a lift from the steady rebound in housing and construction markets.
Edmunds.com, an online shopping site, today raised its full-year sales forecast to 15.5 million, citing healthier household finances, pent-up demand and an increase in leases scheduled to end in the second half of the year compared to the last six months of 2012.