Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler sales underwhelming as auto industry cools off – USA TODAY
Ford said its U.S. monthly sales fell 7% in March while GM’s sales rose 1.6% during a month that once again saw automakers sell new cars and trucks at a breakneck pace.
U.S. auto sales were expected to tick upward slightly in March, but rising discounts and increasing inventory levels at dealerships signal that the market is starting to cool off after two straight record years.
Edmunds.com analysts projected a March sales increase of 2.1%, Kelley Blue Book projected a 3.3% increase and TrueCar subsidiary ALG projected an increase of 0.2%.
The average price paid for a vehicle in March was $34,342, up 1.7% from a year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book.
But average incentives per vehicle soared 13.4% to $3,511, according to ALG, as automakers continue to pile on discounts to move sheet metal.
Despite the extra discounts, vehicle inventories at dealerships rose to the highest point since 2004, according to Edmunds. That reflects a softening market.
Here’s how domestic automakers fared in March, compared to a year earlier:
Edmunds.com forecast: 9.6%
Kelley Blue Book forecast: 9.1%
ALG forecast: 5.5%
Actual results: 1.6%
The Detroit automaker’s sales performance disappointed despite the increase to 256,224 units.
The company’s inventory level rose to 98 days supply at the end of the month, up from 71 days at the end of last March.
GM’s flagship Chevrolet brand posted a 2.2% decline. Cadillac fell 1.5%, but Buick was up 15.1% and GMC rose 12%.
Edmunds.com forecast: -.8.2%
Kelley Blue Book forecast: -7.5%
ALG forecast: -5.6%
Actual results: -7.2%
Ford sales tumbled to 236,250 units in March. But most of the decline was attributable to lower fleet sales, which in 2016 were disproportionately clustered toward the beginning of the year.
Retail sales, a better gauge of an automaker’s health, were down 1.5% to 157,740 vehicles.
The company’s namesake brand declined 7.5%, while its luxury Lincoln brand fell 1.4%.
Car sales plunged 24.2%, while SUVs and crossovers fell 3.4% and trucks increased 2.5%.
The F-series pickup truck, the nation’s best-selling nameplate, rose 10.1% to 81,330 vehicles in March.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Edmunds.com forecast: 2.7%
Kelley Blue Book forecast: 2.8%
ALG forecast: -2.1%
Actual results: -4.6%
Fiat Chrysler sales declined to 190,254 units.
The company has been aggressively reducing fleet sales, once a major source of sales, to bolster its profits.
Overall the company’s vital Jeep brand of sport-utility vehicles and crossovers declined 11.2%.
The Chrysler brand, which relies heavily on cars, was down 33.1%. The Dodge brand rose 9.7%, the Ram brand was up 6% and the Fiat brand declined 5.3%.
Forecasts: Not conducted.
Actual results: Tesla produced 25,418 vehicles in the first quarter and sold “just over 25,000” globally, the company said in a statement. Tesla does not provide monthly sales results, reporting figures only quarterly.
The first-quarter sales results marked a 69% increase from a year earlier.
The company’s stock rose several percentage points in pre-market trading as investors were encouraged by the results.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.