This February, U.S. auto sales were essentially flat in spite of rising showroom traffic. Industry watchers are hoping that March will break the three-month current slump. According to Tire Business, total sales were down 0.03 from the year before — a very small dip, but certainly not a gain. Out of the five largest auto manufacturers, four posted declines, with the exception of Nissan.
Alex Gutierrez, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, a well-known auto valuation company, weighed in on the topic, explaining that, “Given some of the challenges that we saw with the month, I would classify this as a good month for the industry and sets us up for a very strong March.” Others agreed, choosing to see the relative calm of February as a warmup for better sales coming in March. Some blame the weather for the industry’s slow sales, and Reuters reminds readers that January and February are typically “two of the slowest sales months every year.
Over the past few years, automotive sales have gone up and down, making the auto industry’s reaction to the economic downturn mixed, though overall sales were down for that period. Time, for example, points out that new car sales were seen to jump 40% from August 2012 to August 2013, something that few in the industry could have predicted.
If the current trend continues, though, it’s likely that strong incentives aimed at drawing in new customers are going to eat into company profits. Already, many of February’s discounts are rolling into March. Reuters indicates that, on average, incentives are up 5% from last year at the same time.