February new-vehicle sales expected to be best since 2000

(February 26, 2016) IRVINE, Calif. — New-vehicle sales are expected to increase 9 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.37 million units in February, resulting in an estimated 17.9 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book kbb.com. With this growth, this could be the highest February sales total since 2000, when sales hit 1.5 million units.

"February 2016 numbers should reveal solid growth and continued momentum in the auto industry," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. 

"Economic indicators remain positive for the industry, with the unemployment rate down below 5 percent, average home prices on the rise and gas prices averaging under $2 per gallon.  However, increased incentives also are helping consumers close deals, as in recent months incentive spend has approached pre-recession levels."

Key highlights for estimated February sales forecast:

    • In February 2016, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are expected to hit 1,370,000 units, up 9 percent from February 2015 and up 20 percent from January 2016.

    • The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for February 2016 is estimated to be 17.9 million, up from 16.3 million in February 2015 and up from 17.5 million in January 2016.

   • Retail sales are expected to account for 77.6 percent of volume in February 2016, down from 77.9 percent in February 2015.

American Honda is expected to increase most out of the major automakers, with growth of nearly 13 percent year-over-year.  Most of this strength will be from the new Civic, even though sales recently were slowed by the stop-sale on one of the engine options.  Regardless, the Civic remains extremely popular with consumers and is averaging 45 days in dealer inventory before selling, much lower than the compact car segment average of 80 days.

Ford also could post double-digit growth in February, with improvement expected from its truck and SUV models.  In particular, the F-Series and Explorer are likely to fuel the brand's strength.

"Once again, small utility vehicles remain the most popular segment in February 2016 and are expected to increase 25 percent in volume," said Gutierrez.  "Consumers continue to be drawn to this segment in favor of traditional sedans, helping brands such as Jeep and Subaru reach new records nearly every month."

Truck sales look strong in February as gas prices sit at their lowest point since 2009, with full-size truck growth expected to be around the industry average.  Mid-size trucks also are in high demand as the fastest selling segment in the industry, spending just 40 days in dealer inventory on average.

There are 25 sales days in February 2016, compared to 24 sales days in February 2015.  All percentages are based on raw volume, not daily selling rate.