US auto sales likely fell in February

In this Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, photograph, a long line of unsold 2017 and 2018 Maserati Levantes sits on a dealer's lot in Highlands Ranch, Colo. Industry analysts expect February 2018 sales to tail off from a year ago as automakers ease up on cash discounts and other incentives that hit record highs last year. Most automakers report sales figures Thursday, March 1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Auto sales were expected to tail off in February as automakers eased up on discounts.

Auto forecasting firm LMC Automotive predicted a 2 percent drop from last February for what is normally one of the weakest sales months of the year. Others forecast an even steeper decline. Most automakers report February sales on Thursday.

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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent. Ford brand sales were down 6 percent while luxury Lincoln sales plummeted 23 percent.

— Toyota Motor Corp. sales rose 4.5 percent to 182,195 vehicles. Sales of its top-seller, the Camry sedan, jumped 12 percent as an updated version went on sale. Luxury Lexus sales also rose 5 percent.

— Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 1 percent to 165,903. Jeep brand sales jumped 12 percent and Alfa Romeo sales were also up, but Ram truck sales fell 14 percent 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 percent to 129,930. Demand for Nissan cars fell 17 percent but truck and SUV sales were up 9 percent, led by the Rogue small SUV. Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand saw sales fall 7 percent.

— Volkswagen brand sales rose 6 percent to 26,660. Volkswagen is introducing more SUVs as consumers shift away from cars; sales of its Touareg midsize SUV were up 14 percent in February.

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