Winter Weather Hits February Auto Sales


For the second year in a row, ferocious winter weather slowed U.S. vehicle sales in February, with several major automakers missing analysts' projections and dampening bullish expectations.

The lackluster sales reported on Tuesday were "likely due to inclement weather," said Joseph Amaturo of Buckingham Research Group, who expects "any lost sales to be made up in March."

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General Motors Co said U.S. February sales climbed 4 percent to 231,378, barely missing analysts' expectations of 233,707.

Ford Motor Co's sales dropped 2 percent to 180,383. Analysts expected 194,872.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted an increase of 6 percent to 163,586. Analysts looked for 168,172.

Nissan Motor Co's sales were up 3 percent to 118,436, compared with estimates of 121,183.

Fiat Chrysler's U.S. arm said it expects the auto industry to report annualized sales of 16.5 million vehicles for February, which includes about medium and heavy trucks. This would widely miss estimates.

The 48 economists polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, expected U.S. February auto sales of 16.7 million vehicles on an annualized basis, not including medium and heavy trucks, which each year account for up to 400,000 of sales.

Domestic luxury brands took a beating in February, with GM's Cadillac down 13 percent and Ford's Lincoln off 7 percent. Also hurting were sales of electrified vehicles, with the Chevrolet Volt hybrid sliding 43 percent and the Nissan Leaf down 16 percent.

Trucks continued to show strength, with still-low fuel prices partly offsetting the effects of bad weather.

GM's full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups were up 24 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

The two GM trucks outsold Ford's F-series pickup, which is ramping up to full production and had a modest decline of 1 percent. Chrysler's Ram pickup was up 7 percent. (Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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