By on March 14, 2007

intimidator.jpgAfter a bleak January, February offered Detroit automakers a whiff of spring. The Chevrolet Impala had a 60’s sales flashback. Thousands more customers went fission for Fusions. And Chrysler Wrangled plenty of loot from new Jeep owners (boosting their bottom line to help Daimler get the Hell out of Dodge). While The Big 2.5’s supporters may conclude that the numbers presage Motown’s long-awaited recovery, starting a Deathwatch Deathwatch may be a bit premature.

Scanning the February figures, looking at year-on-year comparisons, some models just plain took off. Sales of the Chevrolet Impala rose 43.9 percent. Sales of the GMT900-based Silverado increased 26.5 percent. Avalanches were up a whopping 109 percent. Over at Ford, 46.1 percent more folks fixed on a Fusion. Thanks to the new Wrangler four-door, the model moved 62.9 percent better than ‘afore.

Overall, Ford’s sales slipped 21.5 percent on the car side, 9.9 percent on trucks. Even with red hot Wranglers, Chrysler’s truck sales fell 4.6 percent, while car sales tumbled by 15.6 percent. Silverado sales pulled The General’s trucks up an eight percent incline. But steep declines in every division save Chevy and Saturn yanked car sales 2.7 percent lower.

To avoid premature recapitulation, you gotta factor in product freshness. For example, if you look at a February vs. February comparison for the new Avalanche, it looks like the model’s a solid sales success. However, this February’s buyers can sign away their life for a box-fresh design; last year’s buyers had to make do— or not— with a five-year-old design. The Silverado’s increase may conform to the same principle; “intenders” kept their powder dry until Chevy released the new truck. When Mellencamp’s motor hit the showroom floor, the pent-up demand created an initial sales surge.

By the same token, sales of the current gen Ford F-150 experienced a generous up tick for several months following the new model’s introduction. Now they're down 12.1 percent from last year. GM’s supposed salvation, the GMT900-based Chevrolet Tahoe, also started well. It’s down 24.4 percent. At some point, the Silverado’s momentum will require conquest sales and casual shoppers. With competition from Toyota’s new Tundra, rising gas prices and Ford’s new marketing push, it’s gonna be tough.

How did the “other side” (i.e. the foreign-owned automakers) do in this battle for domestic market share? Feb on Feb, Toyota Camry sales– benefiting from an '07 refresh– rose 17.5 percent. The increase seems to pale next to Impala’s 43.9 percent jump— until you clock the raw numbers. The Camry outsold the Impala by 14k units. The killer Camry also outpaced the Ford Fusion by almost 36k sales. The Honda Accord was Camry’s closest market segment competition– and it trailed the Camry by 7400 units.  

Inventory levels are staring to look good across the board. Production cuts and incentives have brought supply and demand into a better balance. Many beleaguered automotive divisions showed double-digit drops in inventory levels from January. Saturn went into “Like Never Before” mode, quickly moving from a deeply worrying 153-day supply of product to a merely troubling 93 day inventory. OK, yes, it’s still a far cry from the 60 day ideal, but Saturn dealers must be happy with the big drop in carrying costs.  

Formerly minimalist U.S. Porsche dealer lots are beginning to look a bit lebensraum challenged. The Sultans of Stuttgart’s inventory levels have jumped from an unassailably delicious 42-day supply to a “come on down” 70-day level. Blame fading sales of Porsche’s pricey Cayenne SUV. Even though the new, refreshed model is here to save the day (after skipping a model year), the SUV slump in general and Cayenne doldrums in specific raise the question automotive marketeers dread to hear: “Has everyone who wants one got one?”

America’s most available model (how great does that sound) is the Mazda B-series truck. Can someone please turn off the tap? Mazda dealers now have enough petite pickups to last 228 days. Ford’s Zoom without a Vue subsidiary would happily swap with Honda. The econobox-of-the-moment Fit and increasingly creased CR-Vs are smokin’ hot, with 19- and 20-day supplies respectively.

On the vital sales per dealer (SPD) numbers, nearly everyone’s up from January. Even tumbleweed infested Buick dealers showed a slight increase, adding two sales per dealer (to a not-so-grand-national total of six). Saturn scored the highest increase, adding 19 SPD in January (from 31 to 50). At Porsche– normally a sales tiger as the weather improves– SPD dropped by five. In raw numbers, once again, Toyota reigns supreme. The automaker hit 136 SPD in February, up 10 sales from the month previous. Lexus dealers ranked second, with a whopping 105 sales per dealer.

The automakers are hoping for some March madness. But with gas prices on the rise, the housing market on the slow and sub-primes all lent out with nowhere to go, the madness could get seriously crazy. Watch this space.

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38 Comments on “By The Numbers: February Sales Analysis; Spring has Sprung...”

  • avatar

    It’s interesting to see the differences in American’s vehicle preferences with those of Canadians.

  • avatar

    The domestic truck numbers seem particularly ominous. An opening for Tundra?

  • avatar

    Percentages tell you nothing. The actual numbers are a better indication as to how sales are doing, whether it’s month to month or year to year. Whe car companies have actual numbers, they are happy; when they have percentages, they are trying to hide their disappointment.

  • avatar

    86er: It’s interesting to see the differences in American’s vehicle preferences with those of Canadians.

    Yes it is. I don’t have Canadian figures for 2007, but the top 10 selling vehicles in Canada for 2006 were:

    1 Ford F series
    2 Honda Civic
    3 Toyota Corolla/Matrix
    4 Dodge Caravan/Gr Caravan
    5 Mazda Mazda3
    6 Dodge Ram pickup
    7 GMC Sierra
    8 Chevrolet Silverado
    9 Toyota Yaris
    10 Chevrolet Cobalt

    In comparison the top 10 for 2006 in the US were:

    1 Ford F series
    2 Chevrolet Silverado
    3 Toyota Camry
    4 Toyota Corolla/Matrix
    5 Dodge Ram pickup
    6 Honda Accord
    7 Honda Civic
    8 Chevrolet Impala
    9 Nissan Altima
    10 Chevrolet Cobalt

    The top selling passenger car in the US in 2006 was the Camry. It ranked 6th in passenger car sales in Canada (Civic was #1).

  • avatar

    Compacts are very popular in canada. The lone exception is the Ford F-Series, but that could very well lose it’s sales crown this year, both in Canada and the US.

    And indeed raw numbers are certainly more telling than percentages. Even more telling is when you dig deeper into the numbers, and you look at the big picture.

    For example, the big increase in Impala sales. GM says they are reducing fleet sales, but what if they are reducing fleet for most of it’s models, but increasing fleet exclusively for the Impala? I am highly skeptical that Impala sales increase came from retail buyers. Also looking at the big picture, apart from a few key models at GM like the Sierra, Silverado, and Impala, virtually all other models were down across the board.

    And GM (finally) posted it’s annual 2006 results … and guess what, things don’t look so hot. More on that with the next Deathwatch.

  • avatar


    I enjoyed this article very much. This is where “truth” and “fact” collide and gives everyone a perspective on what it really happening in the market.

    Although some once said there are “lies, damn lies and statistics” I was always taught that Polk reporting is the one, definitive way you can tell what’s going on in the market.

    If you see something of interest (ie. Impala sales or very low days’ supply of CR-V) you can then dig a little deeper to see what is causing them).

    Porsche sales are concerning, when I was in Toronto, you could always presage a recession by the level of inventory on a Porsche lot (ie. the brokers’ aren’t making the $$$ to get their piece of driveway jewellery).

    A very successful businessman in Calgary has a “Ferrari Factor”. The moment he sees a sharp uptick in Ferraris parked where he works (and other cars of that ilk) he immediately puts his money into a safe place. Too much stupid money, he figures.

    The Toyota numbers are interesting on the Camry… if the sales increase is out of the ordinary what did Toyota do to gain such a commanding market share (ie. more inventory, lease renewals, increased incentives?)

    Anyway, thanks. This was very refreshing!

  • avatar

    Buick dealerships sell six cars a month?

  • avatar

    I’d love if TTAC could publish the actual numbers, or at least post a link, so we can draw our own conclusions.

    From what I gather, GM sales rocked in February, and they just announced a profitable fourth quarter. Who knows, maybe TTAC will start a GM Lifewatch?

  • avatar

    Spin: Buick dealers sold an average of 50% more than the previous month.

  • avatar

    With regards to the Camry, retail demand remains very strong. That is causing the increase in sales mostly.

  • avatar

    I must also add, GM did NOT post a profit for 2006.

  • avatar

    March 14th, 2007 at 1:25 pm
    Buick dealerships sell six cars a month?
    I’m frankly dumbfounded that there’s any stand-alone Buick stores left. If I’m not mistaken, in Canada they went to the Pontiac-Buick-GMC (sometimes Cadillac) model many moons ago.

  • avatar

    CSJohnston: A very successful businessman in Calgary has a “Ferrari Factor”.

    Just for grins and giggles, I checked Ferrari sales. They’re up 4.8% over last year – a whopping difference of 6 cars. Total sales so far this calendar year: 264 units.

  • avatar

    SherbornSean: I’d love if TTAC could publish the actual numbers, or at least post a link, so we can draw our own conclusions. Unfortunately these numbers are from a subscription site and we aren't allowed to publish the data tables we get there.

  • avatar

    86er: I’m frankly dumbfounded that there’s any stand-alone Buick stores left. If I’m not mistaken, in Canada they went to the Pontiac-Buick-GMC (sometimes Cadillac) model many moons ago. The same in the states. Perhaps a more accurate way of stating it would be "The dealerships which sell Buicks averaged selling 6 each Buicks in February."

  • avatar

    With respect to Camry sales, one reason I am asking is Toyota does not to break out retail versus fleet sales in its internal reporting. I am unsure how they report to Polk.

    Frank, 264 sales in the last two months for Ferrari? That would extrapolate into another 1,320 sales for the remainder of the year!

    Not bad at an average of $200K+ per transaction.

    As for P/B/GMC stores in Canada, I think they’ve been combined for almost 40 years. Buick performs no better up here than in the US.

  • avatar


    Although certain figures such as sales per dealer aren’t widely available, every manufacturer publishes an end of month + YTD press release. Google News is one way to find them after the first of each month, otherwise hit up the individual manufacturers’ news sites:

    That way, you can figure out interesting facts such as MX-5 barely outselling Solstice (incl GXP) so far in 2007.

  • avatar

    Selling more cars is not necessarily helpful: From the 40-page 2006 Harbour Report Press Release: Pre-tax profit per vehicle, 2005: Nissan: $2,249 Toyota: $1,587 Honda: $1,215 Chrysler: $223 Ford: -$590 GM: -$2,496

  • avatar

    CSJohnston, virtually all automakers combine retail and fleet sales in their reporting. It’s almost standard practice really. But if automakers did seperate fleet and retail in their reporting, it would be much more embarassing for Detroit automakers, than it would be for say Toyota or Honda.

    As I recall from industry sources, the old model (2006 Camry) had a fleet percentage of about 14%. The new model is surely a lot lower if not close to zero, as I have still yet to see any 2007 Camrys as fleet cars.

    If retail demand is very high, then Toyota likely is limiting the Camry’s fleet sales.

  • avatar

    I presume that the numbers we are talking about are total sales, not retail. I suspect if we were looking at retail sales–not including rental and other fleet–we might see some very different trends, especially for GM/Ford/Chrysler. I doubt, for instance, that Malibu sales at retail are up 45% unless there was something really strange about last year!

  • avatar

    Wow!Impala sales up, GMT 900 kicking ass, 922 million 1/4 profit.
    Sorry Frank I’m a glass half full guy.
    I think we have woke up the sleeping giant.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    GM “may” be on the rebound, but this market is just too crowded. Someone has to fall. Period.

    Reminds me what the supplier community used to say regarding running the customer out of parts during a difficult vehicle launch: “You don’t have to be faster than the bear. Just faster than the bear’s next meal”

    And – as has been reported by both GM and Ford – a competitors entry into Chapter 11 protection immediately puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

    So once Ford files and starts down the path to lean and mean (maybe) where does that put GM?

  • avatar


    Never mind the “profit.” Feel the burn. The cash burn. Ouch! That’s hot.

    PS The next DW is a comin’.

  • avatar

    Johnson –

    I rent 2007 Camry’s all the time from Enterprise. I’m not saying the lots are swimming with them, like they are with Chargers, Impalas, Cobalt’s, and HHR’s, but I’ve yet to hit a major metropolitan market Enterprise where I cannot get a Camry (my preferred rental vehicle when I don’t need an SUV or minivan to haul gear).

  • avatar

    blautens, understood. Besides, it’s silly to make conclusions simply based on personal observation and experience. Not exactly an objective way to go about things.

    From the industry rumblings I’ve heard, Camry fleet sales are less than 10% at the moment, but I don’t have an exact number.

    RF, there was no “profit” for 2006 to speak of. Goes hand in hand with the cash burn. Plus GM’s cash on hand is a lot less than what the GM faithful have been preaching.

  • avatar

    RF I’m sincere when I say “I can’t wait for the next death watch

  • avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Just out of curiosity, what source are you using for your sales numbers? Polk usually splits Daily Rental and Government Fleet and combine Retail and Commercial Fleet Numbers.

    Secondly, are these numbers derived by vehicle registrations or by raw sales numbers from the manufacturers?

    I am looking at subscribing to Polk for markets I work with but I would be interested in seeing what other possible sources are out there.

  • avatar

    Mikey, Boston,

    While I am the General’s biggest fan, one quarter does not a recovery make. Let’s how our guys do in the months to come. Good stuff’s a-comin’ but this whole real estate meltdown is a cause for concern.

    Full Speed Ahead!

  • avatar

    CS, true, expect good results for this quarter too so theres more hope there!!

    meant to say on autoblog and another website i can’t remember had the UAW articles.

  • avatar

    CSJohnston: Just out of curiosity, what source are you using for your sales numbers?

    The numbers come from the Automotive News Data Center. They’re sales, not registrations.

  • avatar

    There are lies, damn lies and then statistics. 3 is a 50% increase from 2. Please, spare me.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    If gas goes past $3.00 per gallon this summer all bets are off for any truck resurgence.Experts say gas will do just that for the rest of this year at least. Consumer reports does an actual fuel milege comparison for all cars. There numbers for large suv’s and trucks is not pretty. (say 12 to 17mpg) Most small cars don’t actually see more than 25mpg. With VW not sending diesels this year, toyota has the only truly fuel efficient car (44mpg) according to consumers report. Compared to Europe we are in bad shape if we have to conserve on fuel. Yet what we hear is more and more horsepower as the new breakthrough. In Germany I rented a ford galaxy mini van turbo diesel. It did over 30mpg loaded with 5 people and luggage. It also had power in the mountains and was quiet. I believe before all of this is over we will have to replicate Europe and drive cars as if gas is $5.00 per gallon because it will be the World price sooner or later.

  • avatar

    Well the dumb-estics are back ! Hand out the executive bonuses, buy the new corporate jets, and give the unions a big fat 4-year contract. These new models are selling so well, they wont need to redesign them for decades. Screw the gas mileage – Hemi’s for everyone !!

    I think I just heard a cork pop.

  • avatar

    On a side note, but sticking with vehicle sales…. I think Ford is getting its game on with a nice agressive ad for its f150. You know the guy with the Haunkin’ leaf spring and the 4 guys loading the extra 890 pounds of square bounded “stuff”.

    Also on a MPG thing, there are a few sites that do minimal mpg tests on the cars they write about. I read a review of the prius and on average they gave it 38mpg. The engine is 1.5L and the weight is not too far from my 89 accord with 1.8L engine and I can also get 38 highway but averages lower around town.

    I think unless a lot is done on the weight side (like the insight and its aluminum frame/body) you are basically gunna get an average number based on vehicle weight and engine displacement, with minor variation.

    Automakers did go to washington this week to poo poo any idea that our do nothings make any noise that might sound like improving vehicle fuel economy, even if they call it a reduction in green house gasses. Strangely Toyota was in the crowd, and the UAW was there too and speaking the same words….

    As Jerry Weber put it, as we approach the world price of $5./gal reality in sales and economy will rapidly re write the sales projections on “this spot” so yes watch it indeed.

    I love this website:
    you can see by the graph that the 40 cent/gal increase over the last 30 days seems to be leveling off at $2.40 Next months sales numbers should tell of things to come II. Especially if that leveling begins to point upward again. April sales numbers being reported in early May should reflect fuel costs with more reality.

    Cheezeweggie does understand detroit!

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    A postscript to my gas milege blog. Today I read that car and driver recently reviewed the large pickup trucks in a road test. While chevy won with it’s new model, it’s 20% claimed better fuel efficency didn’t maerialize. In fact the chevy (along with dodge)was the worst at 12mpg actual not the 15-19mopg they claimed. So all of the improvements were in packaging, performance, ride etc. Real technology to increased gas milege in the US still isn’t there. No pickup did better than 13mpg so chevy wasn’t devalued on the gas thing. But it says that this segement of the market is worse than ever for fuel consumption. Don’t keep saying the construction industry needs this power, in the rest of the construction industry they use diesel for all medium and heavy duty jobs. Only in America do we not have light duty diesels (4& 6cyl) to do the light work. This shows a total don’t get it on the part of the auto makers.

  • avatar

    Frank Williams:
    Very interesting looking at top10 selling vehicles for Canada and US. What stands out is full size trucks rule *even when gas is about 4 bucks a gallon* as in Canada. Higher gas prices will cut sales of the “big iron” but the market may only shrink a little.

    My point is that there is still tons of money to be made on large personal vehicles (and Toyota seems to agree, just built a gerzillion dollar factory for Tundras)

    Jerry Weber: I agree. In rest of Europe diesels are used to make 50 mpg cars and 40 mpg minivans. In US they are used to make 14 mpg, 6000 lb heavy duty pickups – many of which are lightly used.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    hondaboy55, don’t believe everything you read (bad) about Prius. 38 mpg?! They must have done nothing but 0-60 runs continually.

    Look at the many websites out there which post thousands of real world driver’s MPG on hybrids and you’ll see the Gen II Prius (2004-up) is running 48 mpg, real world.

    Probably not coincidentally, this is my annual average, though my MPG is very “temperature sensitive” and today, it was 25 degrees (I just filled the tank last evening) and I’m down to “only” 46 mpg (commute to work, 85% highway/15% town).

    Best mileage is spring & fall. Above 45 degrees, no air conditioning needed and haven’t got full snow tires on the car yet. I probably average 52 mpg spring & fall.

    By the way, if anyone ever rents a Prius, there is a “trick” which will help you get the mileage that experienced Prius drivers can get.

    Zip up to speed at a fairly quick acceleration rate – say 55 mph zone – zip up to about 3-5 mph above the limit – back completely off the go-pedal and then ease it down to cruise.

    The old-time “save-gas” practices of creeping up to speed to prevent the accelerator pump in a carburetor and shifting as soon as possible are as antique as the Model T.

    I can enjoy blowing the doors off the SUVs as they try to get their formidable hulk moving (and getting 2-5 mpg in the process) while zimming up to speed quickly (12 mpg) then backing off at 55 (48-55-70-99 mpg). Heh heh.

  • avatar

    Frank, 264 sales in the last two months for Ferrari? That would extrapolate into another 1,320 sales for the remainder of the year!

    Not bad at an average of $200K+ per transaction.


    New Ferraris are presold way in advance (at least, that was what I was told) and the average transaction price on USED Ferraris are $250,000.

    On new Ferraris…

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