Reuters

Reuters

SUVs, Presidents Day Deals Power February Auto Sales

By Auto FOXBusiness

UPDATED

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Presidents Day deals and unrelenting demand for sport-utility vehicles powered February auto sales, including double-digit gains for Ford (F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU).

Industry-wide sales grew 6.9% year-over-year, according to Autodata, with holiday promotions, favorable loan terms and the popularity of SUVs contributing to U.S. sales increases. Last summer, small SUVs became the most popular vehicle segment, taking the title from midsize sedans. Also, an East Coast blizzard at the end of January delayed many purchases until February.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate for the month was 17.54 million units, the best February since 2000.

Ford got a big lift from the SUV craze, booking a 20.4% increase in monthly sales to 217,192. Ford said its namesake SUVs posted their best February sales ever, led by a 91% increase in Edge deliveries. Ford-branded SUVs were up 28%, and Lincoln’s SUV sales surged 40.9%.

Ford’s trucks also performed well compared to last year, when the company was transitioning to the new aluminum-bodied F-150. F-Series sales rose 10% to their highest February mark since 2006. Meanwhile, car sales at Ford and Lincoln jumped 18.8%, bucking an industry trend to the downside.

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“We saw a solid industry last month and a strong month for Ford, as customer demand for our newest vehicles -- including new high-end series on Explorer and Edge -- helped Ford increase its average transaction prices at almost double the industry average,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler reported a total sales gain of 12%, selling 182,879 vehicles, after getting another big month from Jeep SUVs.

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Jeep sales climbed 23%, the brand’s best February sales in its history. The SUV brand has logged monthly sales increases for 29 straight months. Meanwhile, Dodge sales were up 12% amid demand for the Durango SUV.

Chrysler sales dropped 26%, but deliveries of Ram trucks and vans pushed 27% higher. Fiat was down 9%.

General Motors (GM) missed expectations with a slight decline of 1.5%, citing a planned reduction in deliveries to rental fleets.

Chevrolet sales ticked 0.7% lower, although retail sales—the deliveries made by dealers to consumers—jumped 13%. GM’s retail sales improved 6.6% overall.

GMC also had a down month, logging a 6.8% drop in sales. Buick sales advanced 2.3% on gains for the Enclave and Encore crossovers. Cadillac also edged higher. The luxury brand’s sales rose 0.9% mostly due to stronger demand for its SUVs.

GM said it cut rental deliveries by 39% across the board in February.

“Our strategy is simple: grow profitable retail share while maintaining discipline with inventory levels and incentive spending, while reducing rental deliveries,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations.

Toyota (TM) saw a 5.2% increase in February sales. Honda (HMC) set a new February record, as sales rallied 12.8%.

Discounting and Presidents Day promotions helped attract car buyers in February. According to TrueCar (TRUE) data, incentive spending per unit was up 11% at $2,975. Ford (9.7%), GM (29.2%) and Fiat Chrysler (14.6%) all posted sizable gains.

Still, average transaction prices increased 1.9% year-over-year to $32,910, and automotive revenue hit a February record of $44 billion, an 8.6% increase. As a percentage of ATP, the industry expanded incentive spending by 9%, TrueCar said.