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Industry Records 1.4% Sales Increase in March

After three months of harsh winter storms, new-vehicle sales in March rose 1.4% from a year ago to 3.74 million units, according to Autodata Corp. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) stood at 16.4 million, up from last March’s 15.3 million rate and up from 15.34 million in February. The following is a breakdown of sales performance by manufacturer:

BMW: The BMW Group reported an 8.1% increase in March sales vs. one year ago, with sales totaling 35,839 units. On a year-to-date basis, sales were up 2.8% from a year ago on sales of 81,228 units in the first three months of the year. BMW Brand Sales increased 18.6% from a year ago to 32,107 units. On a year-to-date basis, sales increased 11.5% from the same period last year to 72,377. Sales for MINI USA dropped 39.8% from a year ago to 3,655 units sold. On a year-to-date basis, sales were down 38.4% on volume of 8,657 units.

Chrysler: Chrysler Group LLC reported its best March sales since 2007, with sales increasing 13% from a year ago to 193,915 units. The Jeep (up 47%), Ram Truck (up 29%) and FIAT (up 24%) brands each posted year-over-year sales gains vs. a year ago, with Jeep posting the largest gain of 144% despite the recall of the Jeep Liberty. Chrysler is the only brand to show a decrease of 23% on year-over-year basis.

Six Chrysler Group vehicles set sales records in March, including the Jeep Compass, Patriot, Dodge Journey and FIAT 500L. The Jeep Wrangler and Ram Cargo Van also logged their best ever March, while the Dodge Grand Caravan had the largest year-over-year percentage sales increase of any Chrysler Group models in March.

Ford: The domestic automaker realized its best March sales in eight years. Retail sales totaled 244,167 units, a 3.3% increase from a year ago. The Ford Fusion posted a record sales month with 32,963 cars sold, up 9% from last year’s record month, while the F-Series broke the 70,000-unit mark in March.

Led by the MKZ, Lincoln sales increased 72% from a year ago — the brand’s best-ever sales month. March also marked the sixth straight month of positive sales for Ford’s luxury brand. And over the last five months, Lincoln sold 43,445 units, a 27% increase over the same period one year ago.

General Motors: The domestic automaker reported a 4.1% sales increase vs. one year ago, with the company delivering 256,047 vehicles in March. On a year-to-date basis, however, sales declined a slight 2.3%. Officials said they expect to see solid economic growth in the upcoming months.

Sales for the Chevrolet Silverado, the 2014 North American Truck of the Year, were up 14%, while sales of the GMC Sierra were up 23%. Deliveries of the Corvette were up 221% from a year ago. As for Cadillac, the brand’s CTS sedan drove an 11% increase in retail sales for CTS models, while sales of the SRX were up 37% from a year ago.

Sales of the Buick Regal were also up 52% from a year ago, while sales of the Encore increased 71% vs. March 2013.

Honda: American Honda reported a 2% decrease in sales from a year ago, with sales totaling 133,318 units. The company’s Acura division, however, realized a 10.4% increase in sales vs. one year ago, with sales totaling 15,580 units. Leading the way was the MDX, which realized an 80% sales increase from a year ago. Sales of the brand’s flagship model totaled 5,793 units. Additionally, sales of Acura trucks rose 45.8% from a year ago, with sales totaling 10,387.

The Honda division recorded sales of 117,738, with the Accord leading the way with March sales totaling 33,962 units. Sales of the Civic and CR-V both eclipsed the 27,000-unit mark, while Odyssey sales rose above the 10,000-unit mark.

Hyundai: The Korean automaker reported a slight 1.9% decreased in March sales, which totaled 67,005 units. On a month-to-month basis, however, sales were up 37% from February. Leading the way was the Santa Fe, which realized a 36.7% sales increase from a year ago. Sales of the Tucson rose 13.6%, while Equus sales were up 13.8%. Sales of the Sonata and Veloster were up 6.8% and 3.3%, respectively.

Mazda: The automaker reported its best-ever sales for March, with sales increasing 9% from a year ago to 34,903 units. The MX-5 also realized its best March since 2009, with sales increasing 31.1% from a year ago to 751 units sold. Additionally, ALG reported that the 2014 Mazda3 has the highest residual value in its segment, while KBB.com listed the entire Mazda brand as the most affordable nonluxury brand to own over a five-year period.

Mercedes-Benz: The German automaker reported its best first quarter sales ever, with March sales rising 11% from a year ago to 30,091 units sold. The Mercedes-Benz brand alone sold 29,316 units in March, a 12% increase from a year ago. On a year-to-date basis, sales rose 5.8% to 77,238 units.

The E-Class took the top spot with 6,335 units sold, a 58% increase from the same month last year. Sales of the C-Class totaled 5,660, while sales of the M-Class totaled 4,052 units, up 15.7% from March 2013. Sales of the company’s flagship S-Class totaled 2,299 for the month, up 89.1%.

Mitsubishi: The OEM reported its best March in six years, with sales increasing 70% from a year ago and 24% on a year-to-date basis. In total, the automaker sold 8,996 units in March. Outlander realized its best March sales since 2008, with sales rising 59.9% for the month and 22.4% year to date. Additionally, Lancer sales in March were up 72.4%, while sales of the Lancer Evolution were up 27.1%.

Nissan: The Japanese automaker reported an 8.3% increase in March sales vs. a year ago, with sales totaling 149,136 units — the company’s best month in 12 of the last 13 months. Sales of the all-electric Nissan LEAF set a March record, with sales increasing 12.1% from a year ago to 2,507 units. Nissan Altima sales totaled 35,921 units in March, its best sales month since March 2013. Sales of the Nissan Juke also reached a new monthly high, with sales increasing 77.3$ from a year ago to 6,943 units.

Infiniti reported sales of 12,494 units in March, an increase of 12.5% vs. one year ago. Sales of the all-new Infiniti Q50 luxury sports sedan totaled 3,795 units, while overall sales of Infiniti sports sedans, including the Infiniti G37, rose 27.9% for the month.

Toyota: Toyota Motor Sales reported a 4.9% increase in March sales vs. one year ago, with sales totaling 215,348 units. Toyota division sales were up 2.5%, totaling 186,755 units. Lexus sales increased 23.3% from a year ago to 28,593 units.

By model, the Toyota Camry posted sales of 42,000 units, while sales of the all-new Corolla totaled 30,000 units. Sales for Toyota’s truck division were up 10%, while the RAV4 realized its best-ever first quarter with more than 20,000 units sold. As for Lexus, the IS posted a 117% increase, while sales of the GS were up 32%. Sales of the RX closed in on the 10,000-unit mark, while sales of the brand’s luxury utility vehicles were up nearly 20% from a year ago.

Volkswagen: March sales for the German automaker were down 2.6% from a year ago, with sales totaling 36,717 units. Sales of the Jetta Sedan totaled 13,687 units for the month, up 6.3% vs the prior year, while the Passat realized its best March ever with sales totaling 11,050 units.

Audi realized its best-ever March and its 39th consecutive record sales month. Audi sales finished 7.5% ahead of the 13,253 units sold in March 2013. Through the first quarter, sales totaled 35,228, a 3% increase from one year ago. Sales of the A6 increased 26.7% from a year ago, while sales of the Q7 increased 45.8%.

Porsche reported a 9.2% sales increase vs. one year ago and a 5% sales increase on a year-to-date basis. The automaker realized its all-time best March, with 3,808 units delivered. The Cayenne continued to be the automaker’s most popular model with 1,862 sold units. Sales of the Boxter and Panamera totaled 617 and 442 units, respectively.

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Auto Industry Sees Strong September Sales

This week, all of the major manufacturers in the auto industry released their sales numbers for September. And across the board, the news is very good. Across the board were reports of increased vehicle sales, not just over last year’s numbers but in many cases the best numbers these companies have seen since in the last decade. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Ford Motor Co., for example, reported that overall, it’s small car sales were up 73 percent year-over-year to 24,628 units, the best numbers it has had since 2002. The company’s F-Series trucks continued a 14-year consecutive growth streak, with an increase of one percent over last year to sell 55,077 units. “As more buyers look for new vehicles across the country, Ford is ready with our strongest lineup ever of fuel-efficient cars, utilities and full-size pickups,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Fuel economy remains one of the most important features customers want most today, and Ford is answering the call with five vehicles that deliver 40 mpg or better – with another three on the way by year-end.”

Toyota was another winner, with sales results of 171,910 units, an increase of 41.5 percent compared to the same period last year on both a daily selling rate (DSR) and a raw volume basis. The Toyota Division posted September total sales of 151,524 units, an increase of 42.3 percent on a DSR basis from September 2011. The Lexus Division reported total sales of 20,386 units in September 2012, up 36.0 percent from September 2011 on both a DSR and raw volume basis compared to the same period last year. “The auto industry had another very encouraging month in September,” said Bill Fay, Toyota group vice president and general manager. “Our dealers got off to a great start over Labor Day weekend and that momentum carried through the rest of the month, as Camry continued to stretch its lead as the most popular car in America.”

Hyundai Motor America wrapped up the quarter setting multiple sales records, including 60,025 sales for the month of September. Sales were up 15 percent for the month, and up 10 percent for the first nine months of the year versus 2011. The Azera and the Elantra families saw sales gains of 1028 percent and 27 percent, respectively, over last September. The Tucson saw sales gains of 23 percent over the same period a year ago, and Veloster, the three-door coupe, had a sales gain of 262 percent. Hyundai fleet sales and mix remained low at a nine percent mix for the month and year-to-date, among the lowest in the industry. “September was a very encouraging month for Hyundai as we avoided the traditional back-to-school sales decline and began to reap the benefits of a materially improved inventory situation on our core vehicle lines,” said Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales. “We’re well positioned for a strong fourth quarter as sales of the newly launched Elantra GT, Elantra Coupe, the all-new Azera and all-new Santa Fe continued at a brisk pace. Our fourth quarter production plan is up nearly 20 percent on a year-over-year basis.”

The BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported September sales of 26,660 vehicles, an increase of 3.5 percent from the 25,749 vehicles sold in the same month a year ago. Year-to-date, BMW Group is up 7.1 percent on sales of 234,928 in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 219,314 in the same period in 2011. “The economic indicators and consumer confidence are showing improvement and the traffic in our showrooms is further encouraging our optimism for the fourth quarter of the year as the BMW new model ramp-up continues,” said Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO, BMW of North America, LLC. “The X1 in its first full month is largely sold out and MINI set another sales record; both are strong indicators of what’s to come.”

Mercedes-Benz USA reported record sales of 23,156 for its Mercedes-Benz models, up 7 percent, delivering a record year-to-date total of 191,618 new vehicles to customers, up 12.7 percent. Combined sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, smart and Sprinter for the month totaled 25,980, up 8.7 percent, bringing the year-to-date total to 214,331 up 16.7 percent. “We’re on our way to a record year with extraordinary momentum and demand outpacing supply,” stated Steve Cannon, president and CEO, MBUSA.

Kia Motors America (KMA) achieved a record third quarter and the 25th consecutive month of record sales, reaching 48,105 units, a 35.1 percent increase over the same period in 2011. The Optima midsize sedan sold 14,304 units and the Sorento CUV enjoyed sales of 10,066 vehicles. The Soul accounted for 9,467 units sold, bolstered by the recent launch of the “Bringing Down the House” advertising campaign featuring the music-loving Kia hamsters. “Kia’s product-led transformation – together with our successful marketing – have elevated Kia’s reputation beyond our bedrock commitment to value,” said Byung Mo Ahn, group president and CEO of KMA and KMMG. “At Kia, we work to understand the needs and expectations of our customers and work to find new ways to enrich their lives, providing the Kia brand with powerful potential as more new products and technologies are set to arrive in the next 12 months.”

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BMW Buys ING’s Car-Leasing Business for Around $1 Billion

Germany’s BMW Group plans to buy the car-leasing unit of Dutch banking group ING for around $1 billion to expand its own fleet division and to support its budding electric car business.

The acquisition of ING Car Lease for 637 million euros will increase the number of car contracts under management by BMW’s Alphabet Fleet Management from 300,000, serving more than 12,000 customers, to around 540,000, BMW said Friday.

“Fleet management will also support the introduction of electric vehicles,” said Norbert van den Eijnden, chief of Alphabet.

Analysts say automakers rolling out all-electric and other high-tech cars will rely increasingly on their leasing operations, reported The Detroit News.

Most people will be reluctant to buy the early electric cars because of concerns about their residual values. “Why buy a first-generation electric car when you know the technology is likely to be obsolete in three-four years?” said auto consultant Maryann Keller of Maryann Keller & Associates in Stamford, Conn. “It’s easier to get people to make a monthly payment.”

It’s also easier for automakers with their own leasing operations to subsidize the cost of battery-powered electric vehicles. That way, they can put as many customers as they want behind the wheel and see how the cars perform, Keller said.

BMW has leased electric Mini cars and has developed a BMW-badged ActiveE electric car.

At the same time, European companies with vehicle fleets also are under pressure to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

“We currently see many automakers putting more focus on fleet management,” Deutsche Bank analyst Tim Rokossa said in a research note today.

The commercial fleet business is important in Europe, where company cars are often part of executive compensation.

“The strengthening of the fleet management business is in line with the BMW Group strategy to be the leading provider of premium products and premium services,” BMW said.

It said the deal with ING was expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Deutsche Bank noted that BMW, based in Munich, had 12.5 billion euros, or $17.5 billion, in cash from industrial operations, at the end of the first quarter. “As such BMW has in our view enough cash to easily digest this acquisition,” Rokossa said.

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