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U.S. Auto Sales to Rise Steadily

Zacks Equity Research

U.S. Auto sales in February are expected to rise steadily as it did in the past three years. The two major automobile information websites, TrueCar.com and Edmunds.com have projected light-vehicle sales of 1.2 million units for the month, which implies a 4%–6% year-over-year increase.

Based on this projection, seasonally adjusted annualized rate (:SAAR) of sales is expected to go up to 15.7 million units from 15.3 million units in January. According to TrueCar, the estimated February SAAR is the highest since 2007.

TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak is particularly enthralled due to the higher full-sized pickup truck sales by small businesses during the month, despite increasing gasoline prices. Strong pent-up demand for full-sized pickup trucks is expected to be the key driving factor of growth in the automotive industry in 2013.

Auto sales in the U.S. grew 14.2% to 1.04 million vehicles in January. Apart from strong pent-up demand, friendlier banks contributed to the growth as they offered greater access to loans on easier terms and with lower interest rates. Further, improving job market boosted the consumer sentiment to purchase new cars.

Most of the major automakers posted double-digit rise in sales in the month. Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) topped all the automakers in terms of sales growth. The company reported an impressive 26.6% jump in sales to 157,725 vehicles, driven by strong sales of Camry and Corolla cars.

Among the U.S. automakers, General Motors Company (GM) posted a healthy 15.9% rise in sales to 194,699 vehicles in January, driven by strong Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck sales. Ford Motor Co. (F) sales spiked 21.7% to 165,863 vehicles, driven by impressive sales of all new Fusion sedan, Explorer sports utility vehicle and Escape compact crossover.

Among the European automakers, Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) posted a 6.6% rise in sales to 29,018 vehicles. It was the company’s best January in the U.S. since 1974. The Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. sales edged up 2.4% to 43,713 vehicles.

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