General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler all missed U.S. February sales forecasts on Wednesday, led by a plunge in small and midsize models, as incentives rise and concerns endure about auto loans and plateauing auto sales.
In January, Ford CEO Mark Fields said the only reason to build new factories is to meet higher demand and noted U.S. demand is cooling with no plans for new facilities.
Meanwhile, cheap gasoline is propping up demand for high-margin trucks and SUVs, so car companies could expand U.S. production capacity for those models. But February sales figures out Wednesday likely cemented Mexico as a hub for production of low-margin cars, which are unlikely to fetch higher prices as Americans go for trunks and SUV’s.
Ford saw a 35% drop in Fusion sales last month, and Focus sales plunged 31.8%. Chrysler 200 sales plummeted 65%, and the Dodge Charger sales fell by 21%. The Chevy Sonic tumbled 49%, the Impala lost 21.7%, and the Malibu collapsed 42.1%.
February is a typically slow month for the industry, but one that gets a jolt from the Presidents Day weekend. Edmunds said it expected auto sales in February overall to fall 1% from a year ago.
“The holiday weekend is likely a contributing factor to strong sales in February, but we’re also seeing signs that automakers are starting to be a bit more aggressive to move cars off the lot,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director for industry analysis, said in the statement containing the forecasts.
Trucks and SUVs remained popular, but “inventories of passenger cars have been building,” she said.
Dow industrial component General Motors’ total sales climbed 4% to 237,388 vehicles.
Incentive spending was “essentially flat” year over year, GM said, citing internal data. Strong retail sales of Buick, Chevrolet and GMC were among the highlights for the month.
General Motors said that it was “optimistic that the company, and Chevrolet in particular,” would continue to pick up retail market share this year. The industry overall would likely stay “at or near record sales levels.”
Small-business deliveries rose 13%, led by higher demand for pickups and vans.
Ford’s overall U.S. sales fell 4% from a year ago to 208.
The company said it continued to see “strong consumer demand for the highest-series Super Duty pickups and the all-new F-150 Raptor, plus greater availability of 2017 model year F-150s.”
Overall car sales, however, fell 24% as more drivers gravitated toward trucks and SUVs. SUVs, Lincoln and F-Series sales were also solid.
Shares rose 1.3%, working their way through a flat base.
Fiat Chrysler’s February U.S. sales slid 10% to 168.
Fleet sales fell 26%, as the company tries to reduce sales in daily rentals. Ram Truck brand sales rose 4%.
Shares climbed 0.6%.
Nissan February sales in the U.S. rose 3.7% to 135,740, topping Edmunds forecasts for 129,561 units. Trucks, crossovers and SUVs helped lead the gains.
Shares rose 1.45%.
Honda sales rose 2.3%, Toyota’s fell 7.2%, while Volkswagen’s namesake brand saw a 12.7% boost and Audi jumped 17%. Honda stock climbed 1%, Toyota 1.4% and VW 2%.