Ford, Chrysler, Toyota See March Auto Sales Warm as Winter Fades

(Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Auto sales turned up in March, as relief from the bitter winter cold in much of the nation brought shoppers back to showrooms.

“Solid March sales pushed first-quarter industry results ahead of last year’s pace despite one of the harshest winters on record,” said Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota’s U.S. sales division. “Toyota dealers had their two best sales weekends of the year late in the month, and we’re optimistic that momentum will spring us into April.”

Toyota Motor Corp. said its U.S. sales rose 4.9 percent – to 215,348 vehicles – compared with the same month a year earlier.

Ford Motor Co. said its U.S. sales in March rose 3 percent – to 244,167 vehicles – compared with the same month in 2013.

“March sales turned noticeably higher mid-month and finished strong,” said John Felice, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.

Chrysler Group said its sales rose 13 percent to 193,915 vehicles, its best March since 2007. It was led by a 47 percent gain in sales of its Jeep brand.

“We are entering the spring selling season on a high note, as our Jeep and Fiat brands recorded their best sales months ever and Chrysler Group extended its streak in March to 48 consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, the automaker’s U.S. sales chief. “Our Ram pickup truck posted its best March sales in 10 years.”

Nissan Group said its March sales rose 8.3 percent to 149,136 vehicles, the best monthly total in the company’s history.

Subaru of America also posted a big gain, reporting sales of 44,479 vehicles, a 21 percent increase.

Japanese nameplates such as Subaru, Nissan and Toyota offered attractive deals in March “because it’s the end of the Japanese fiscal year, and those brands step up their incentives to make one last sales push,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at car-shopping company

General Motors Co. said its sales report was delayed by a computer glitch.

For the entire industry, forecast that sales rose about 2 percent to almost 1.5 million vehicles in March. That represented a healthy annual sales pace of about 15.8 million after adjusting for seasonal factors.