Kelley Blue Book, the Irvine-based firm that provides a comprehensive assortment of automobile information for consumers, expects auto sales to continue an upward trend of growth this month. By the end of February, new vehicle sales are estimated to exceed 1,050,000 units and total 13.8 million. This shakes out to a 6.4 percent increase over last February 2011, according to KBB’s Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate (SAAR).
The auto information company cited financial offers and consumers’ improved access to credit, as well as increased auto production in January, as reasons for the sales growth. The leap year will add an extra day in February, allowing dealers to sell more cars this month.
"From a pure volume perspective, in the months ahead sales will continue to exceed last year's figures, but this year there may be more volatility from month-to-month than in 2011," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. "Sales were remarkably flat from May through November 2011, due to the production woes faced by Toyota and Honda. Now that they are producing vehicles at full capacity, a return to traditional seasonal patterns is likely through 2012."
Kelley Blue Book expects Chrysler to continue its strong sales growth and GM to maintain its high sales volume this month. The company also predicts an increase in sales of subcompacts, due to their 40 mpg ratings.
"Although traditionally viewed as a budget segment reserved for those consumers willing to accept fewer amenities, cheaper materials and less than an awe-inspiring driving experience, today's subcompacts compare favorably to many compacts or mid-size sedans," said Gutierrez.
The sluggish economic growth, paired with rising fuel and oil prices and the possibility of further conflict in the Middle East, presents a potential threat to this year’s increase in auto sales.
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