DETROIT - Auto sales were expected to tail off in February as automakers eased up on discounts.
Auto forecasting firm LMC Automotive predicted a 2 per cent drop from last February for what is normally one of the weakest sales months of the year. Others forecast an even steeper decline. Among major automakers, only Toyota, Subaru and Volkswagen reported sales gains over last February.
Ford's U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said automakers spent an average of $65 less per vehicle on incentives in February compared to the same month last year. That's a stark contrast from 2017, when incentive spending was often climbing $300 or $400 per month.
LaNeve said discounts could grow during the spring and summer, when tax returns arrive and more people shop for vehicles. But based on the first two months of this year, he expects automakers to remain fairly disciplined. In the past, heavy discounting has led to overproduction and steep declines in automakers' profits.
Here are some details regarding February sales:
— General Motors Co. sales fell just under 7 per cent to 220,905. Sales were dragged down by the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, GM's top-selling vehicle. Silverado sales were off more than 16 per cent from a year ago, when the company had record February sales of SUVs and pickup trucks. GMC and Chevrolet sales were down for the month but Buick and Cadillac sales rose.
— Ford Motor Co. sales also fell 7 per cent to 194,132. Ford said its car and SUV sales were down but sales of the F-Series pickup — its biggest seller — inched up 3.5 per cent. Ford brand sales were down 6 per cent while luxury Lincoln sales plummeted 23 per cent.
— Toyota Motor Corp. sales rose 4.5 per cent to 182,195 vehicles. Sales of its top-seller, the Camry sedan, jumped 12 per cent as an updated version went on sale. Luxury Lexus sales also rose 5 per cent.
— Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 1 per cent to 165,903. Jeep brand sales jumped 12 per cent and Alfa Romeo sales were also up, but Ram truck sales fell 14 per cent because of a drop in fleet buyers. Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat sales also fell on low consumer demand for cars.
— Nissan Motor Co. sales fell 4 per cent to 129,930. Demand for Nissan cars fell 17 per cent but truck and SUV sales were up 9 per cent, led by the Rogue small SUV. Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand saw sales fall 7 per cent.
— Honda Motor Co. sales fell 5 per cent to 115,557. Sales of its bestseller, the CR-V SUV, dropped 19 per cent despite a recent redesign. Luxury Acura sales were up 1 per cent.
— Hyundai Motor Co. sales fell 13 per cent to 46,095 as higher sales of SUVs failed to make up for declining car sales. Genesis luxury sales also slid 14 per cent.
— Subaru brand sales rose 4 per cent to 47,209. Sales of its newly redesigned Crosstrek SUV jumped 61 per cent.
— Volkswagen brand sales rose 6 per cent to 26,660. Volkswagen is introducing more SUVs as consumers shift away from cars; sales of its Touareg midsize SUV were up 14 per cent in February.