(Jeremy Bender/Business Insider)
US auto sales rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.43 million in February, according to WardsAuto.
Autodata pegged the gain at 17.54 million, according to CNBC.
Analysts had forecast that auto sales rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.70 million, up from 17.46 million in January, according to Bloomberg.
Most of the automakers crushed expectations, with Ford posting the biggest beat. Its shares jumped as much as 4% in early trading.
GM posted an unexpected decline, and Volkswagen sales also fell as the company continues to reel from its emissions scandal.
The year kicked off with sales growing at the fastest pace since 2000.
In a note to clients previewing the data, Deutsche Bank economists described this report as among their top five indicators. That's because vehicles are big-ticket items, so they are typically bought when households are confident about their income prospects. Also, they're a good gauge of consumer spending.
Here's the scoreboard:
Fiat Chrysler: +11.8% (+9.2% expected)
Nissan: +10.5% (+7.2% expected)
Ford: +20.2% (+12.6% expected)
GM: -1.5% (+5.1% expected)
Honda: +12.8% (8.8% expected)
Toyota: +4.1% (+4.9% expected)
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