US auto sales mixed in January; GM falls while Ford truck sales jump

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 1:37am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2017, 1:37am

Automakers reported mixed US auto sales for January, with General Motors posting a 3.8 per cent decline while cross-town rival Ford Motor topped analysts forecasts on strong truck sales.

Ford’s F-Series pickup truck sales rose 12.5 per cent, while passenger cars dropped 17.5 per cent, leading the company to report a decline of 0.6 per cent in total sales. Industry analyst expected, on average, a fall of about 3 per cent.

Overall, early auto sales reports showed results slightly better than expected, considering that both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan Motor surprised to the upside.

FCA US sales were down 11 per cent while analysts forecast a decline of 16 per cent. Nissan’s US sales rose 6.2 per cent versus forecasts for a decline of about 2.5 per cent. Nissan’s Rogue SUV continued to be its top seller as sales soared 45.5 per cent.

GM said it is emphasising more profitable retail sales, or those directly to consumers. Lower fleet sales to businesses and government pressured overall volume in January, said Kurt McNeil, GM’s US sales chief. Analysts looked for GM sales to fall about 2 per cent.

GM expects that US January industry sales were about 17.6 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualised rate, near the forecast of 17.55 million vehicles in a poll of 40 economists by Thomson Reuters.

December’s surprisingly good showing pulled sales from January, normally the weakest month of the year in terms of sales volume. Some analysts cautioned against putting too much emphasis on last month’s annualised selling rate.

Still, the overall US auto market remained on a roll, with rising sales the past seven years, and record highs for the past two, they said. Each month, auto sales are an early indicator of US consumer spending.

Last year ended surprisingly strong. December US sales were 18.43 million on a seasonally adjusted annualised basis, far outpacing expectations of 17.7 million vehicles.

The industry is optimistic about hitting another record in 2017 on expectations of pro-growth economic and regulatory policies from US President Donald Trump.

Even with US consumer confidence falling in January, households remained upbeat about the labour market, suggesting the economy would continue to grow this year.

December’s consumer confidence reading was the strongest in 15 years.