Newspaper article International New York Times

Cold Spells Bite into U.S. Auto Sales ; Ford Takes the Worst Hit in February; Honda Also Falls Short of Forecasts

Newspaper article International New York Times

Cold Spells Bite into U.S. Auto Sales ; Ford Takes the Worst Hit in February; Honda Also Falls Short of Forecasts

Article excerpt

Ford fared poorest among the major automakers, with most of the company's lineup taking a hit. The Fiesta, Focus and Taurus all fell by double digits.

After the frigid winter last year, when many buyers stayed home, analysts expected the auto industry to post robust sales gains in February since higher percentages would be easier to achieve.

But record cold spells struck again last month, once again hurting sales in the United States.

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan and Honda all missed analysts' forecasts, though they did post modest February sales gains over the same period last year.

Nationally, car companies sold 1.26 million vehicles last month, up only about 5 percent, for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.23 million vehicles sold, according to the Autodata Corporation.

Faring poorest among major automakers, Ford Motor reported that its sales fell 2 percent year over year.

"We need to watch what's happening at Ford," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at AutoTrader.com. The company largely got a pass for its lackluster performance last year because of its transition to the new, mostly aluminum-body F-150 pickup truck, she said, but that will not be the case this year.

"Ford will come under increasing scrutiny if sales don't pick up soon," she said.

In February, Ford's F-Series sales fell 1 percent compared with last year. Based in Dearborn, Mich., Ford is still increasing production of the F-150, with a second assembly plant near Kansas City, Mo., set to begin making the trucks this month.

Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president for United States marketing, sales and service, noted that retail sales, as opposed to fleet or business sales, of the pickup rose in February, even as overall sales fell, and said the trucks were "the hottest vehicles on dealer lots."

But it was not just the pickup: Most of Ford's lineup took a hit, as the Fiesta, Focus and Taurus fell by double digits compared with a year ago. Ford's sport utility vehicles were not immune either, with Escape sales down 9.6 percent and Edge sales falling 40 percent. The Explorer was a bright spot, with sales up 33. …

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