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February light vehicle sales: Ford new No. 1, Chrysler outsells Honda, Nissan

by Bill Cawthon on

General Motors was first out of the gate, saying retail sales improved 7% in February and strong fleet sales drove the results even higher, with overall growth at 11.5 percent. Sales at its four “core” brands jumped 32.2% with retail sales improving 18% at Buick, 13% at Cadillac, 1% at Chevrolet and 25% at GMC. While it dropped to No. 2 for the month, the Malibu is still the best-selling American-badged car in year-to-date (YTD) sales.

Ford moved into the top spot in U.S. sales, passing GM as the folks in Dearborn reported total sales jumped 43.1% with retail sales climbing 28% and fleet sales up 74% compared to last February. Ford is estimating it gained three points of market share, taking 17% of total industry sales last month. The Fusion regained the top spot among American-badged cars for the month and the F-Series pickup beat the Silverado by 13,073 sales and holds a 42% lead in YTD sales.

Chrysler sales improved by 399 sales as the Caravan and Town & Country took the top two spots in the minivan segment for the month and in YTD sales, beating the Honda Odyssey. Chrysler also moved back up to the No. 4 slot, passing Honda in monthly sales and Nissan in both monthly and YTD sales. As with GM and Ford, Chrysler’s results were driven by strong fleet sales.

Toyota Division tumbled 10.6%, wiping out a 5.2% gain for Lexus and leaving the top Japanese automaker down 8.7% for the month. Toyota, which once threatened to pass GM, is now in third place in both monthly and YTD sales. The recalled-damaged Camry slipped to No. 3, behind the Accord and Corolla.

Honda sales were up 12.7% and the Accord has firmed up its position as the best-selling passenger car in America. The Odyssey posted improved numbers but they weren’t enough to catch the Chrysler minivans.

Mitsubishi sales dropped 10.4% but sales of the Galant, Endeavor and Outlander all came in ahead of their February 2009 numbers.

Kia posted record February numbers, up almost 9% on strong sales of the Forte, Soul and new Sorento. Hyundai didn’t hit a new record but sales improved by 11 percent, led by a doubling of sales of the new Tucson.

Subaru posted its own February sales record led by a 159% increase in sales of the Outback. Overall sales were up 38 percent.

Suzuki sales continue to crater, plunging 61% to just 1,375 units. Sales of the new Kizashi sedan and the Equator, a rebadged Nissan Frontier pickup, were overwhelmed by precipitous declines in those of the Grand Vitara and SX4.

With sales of the E-Class nearly doubling last February’s rate, Mercedes reported its sales rose 4.7%. The addition of the Sprinter van line (formerly handled by Dodge) brought the increase to 8.4 percent, putting MBUSA 24.0% ahead of the first two months of 2009 and ahead of long-time luxury leader Lexus for the first two months of 2010.

BMW also beat Lexus for the month, coming in just behind Mercedes, but still lags Lexus in YTD sales. For the month, BMW sales were up 16.3% on very good SUV sales including a 75.5% jump reported by the X5. Mini sales were also improved, up 1.6 percent.

Volkswagen maintained its position as the top European brand as sales of the new GTI and Rabbit built on gains by the Jetta, Passat Tiguan and Routan. VW sales climbed 32.6% to 18,116 units. VW’s upscale Audi brand did slightly better with a 33.6% jump, thanks to solid performances by the A4, A5 and Q5.

The new Panamera and the Cayenne SUV overcame slumping sales of the Cayman/Boxter and 911 to give Porsche an 0.8% improvement over last February. Porsche YTD sales are now about 4.4% ahead of the first two months of 2009.

Note: Our monthly recap and analysis will be posted tonight

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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