New-car sales expected to rise in March, fall 0.3 percent for quarter

(March 27, 2014) IRVINE, Calif. — New-vehicle sales are expected to rise 2 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.48 million units, and an estimated 15.7 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book.

First quarter total sales are expected to hit 3.68 million, down 0.3 percent from the first quarter of 2013. A 15.7 million SAAR would mark the 17th consecutive month above 15 million and the best March since 2007.

"Following two months of weaker-than-expected sales, the industry should start to bounce back in March," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Although we aren't expected to hit 16 million SAAR, indications show that consumers are returning to showrooms in spring. The momentum built in March should set the market up for a big month in April. Those consumers that delayed a purchase in January and February will find a modest increase in available incentives, which should help to offset gains in average transaction prices."

Key Highlights for estimated March 2014 sales forecast:

    • In March, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are expected to hit 1,475,000 units, up 1.5 percent from March 2013 and up 23.8 percent from February 2014.

    • The SAAR for March 2014 is estimated to be 15.7 million, up from 15.3 million in both February 2014 and March 2013.

    • Retail sales are expected to account for 82 percent of volume in March 2014.

Chrysler is expected to report the biggest gains in March at 7.2 percent, entirely on the surge of both its Jeep and RAM brands. Their gains are continually driven by the popular all-new Jeep Cherokee and the RAM pickup truck, which is up nearly 25 percent so far this year.

Kelley Blue Book expects Toyota to rebound from the slow start to the year with a big push form Camry and continued strength in sales for the recently redesigned RAV4.

Compact crossovers continue to lead industry gains in March with 15 percent expected growth year-over-year. The Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, all redesigned last year, are leading the way, comprising 70 percent of the segment's growth since the beginning of the year.

"Consumers are opting for compact crossovers at the expense of segments like mid-size cars, which transact just $1,500 lower," said Gutierrez. "Kelley Blue Book expects mid-size cars to remain mostly flat in March due to big sales of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord, but demand in this segment in 2014 has been weaker than the previous two years."

  Sales Volume 1 Market Share 2
Manufacturer Mar-14 Mar-13 YOY % Mar-14 Mar-13 YOY %
General Motors (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC) 247,000 245,950 0.4% 16.7% 16.9% -0.2%
Ford Motor Company (Ford, Lincoln) 238,000 235,643 1.0% 16.1% 16.2% -0.1%
Toyota Motor Company (Lexus, Scion, Toyota) 210,000 205,342 2.3% 14.2% 14.1% 0.1%
Chrysler Group (Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, RAM) 184,000 171,606 7.2% 12.5% 11.8% 0.7%
American Honda (Acura, Honda) 136,000 136,038 0.0% 9.2% 9.4% -0.1%
Nissan North America (Infiniti, Nissan) 140,000 137,726 1.7% 9.5% 9.5% 0.0%
Hyundai-Kia 115,000 117,431 -2.1% 7.8% 8.1% -0.3%
Volkswagen Group (Audi, Volkswagen) 47,000 50,957 -7.8% 3.2% 3.5% -0.3%
Total 3 1,475,000 1,453,038 1.5% - - -
1Historical data from OEM sales announcements            
2Kelley Blue Book Automotive Insights            
3Includes brands not shown