Forecasters say April auto sales continued strong
Jeep Grand Cherokee / Chrysler Group
(MoneyWatch) Despite last week's lackluster GDP report, April U.S. auto sales are set to continue the strong trend of the first quarter, forecasters say. The April sales, with totals to be released officially tomorrow, have caused increases in full-year predictions to more than 14.2 million vehicles, compared with 12.8 million last year.
Total April sales of cars, SUVs, vans and pickups are expected to be down from March -- a regular seasonal trend -- but up 2 percent or more from April a year ago. "The momentum built by the recovering economy and compelling product choices in the first quarter continued to fuel new vehicle sales in April," says Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for TrueCar.com. "Consumer demand for the smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles remains strong while the SUV and truck categories are not seeing any dramatic drop in sales."
Here is a rundown of expectations for individual companies:
- Chrysler continues its strong rebound with robust sales of redesigned vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Forecasters see Chrysler's April market share rising above 11.5 percent versus 10.1 percent for April 2011.
- Among other Detroit auto makers, General Motors and Ford are expected to continue the first quarter trend of lower market share than a year ago. GM's share, while still leading all companies, is forecast at about 17.5 percent vs. 20.1% a year ago. Ford's share looks similar to its first quarter 15.2 percent compared with 16.4 in April 2011. Part of GM and Ford's market share loss stems from resurgent sales for both Toyota and Nissan, which in April 2011 were suffering an inventory pinch after the March Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
- Toyota's April market share is expected to be above 14.5 percent, compared with 13.8 percent a year ago. The company has steadily picked up sales since it regained full inventory supply late last year. And redesigned models, particularly the 2012 Camry, are selling well.
- Nissan is expected to have the largest unit sales gain of any company over last year of 20% or more and market share of over 7 percent, compared to 6.2 percent a year ago. Analysts at Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com point out that Nissan has been especially aggressive with incentives including rebates of up to $3,000 on some vehicles and strong support for lease deals.
- Honda, which also suffered inventory problems after last year's disaster, has not bounced back as strongly as Toyota and Nissan. Its April market share is expected to be about 9.5 percent, compared with 10.8 percent a year ago.
Forecasters at the partnership of J.D. Power and LMC Automotive note that strong retail demand, as opposed to fleet sales, is a healthy sign. Its analysts project that the retail sales rate in April was up by 8 percent over a year ago.
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