NEW YORK: Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. led the four largest automakers by US sales in reporting January gains that topped estimates, as buyers return to showrooms to begin a fourth consecutive year of growth.
Toyota’s deliveries of cars and light trucks surged 27 per cent and Ford’s climbed 22 percent, while General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group sales each rose 16 percent, the companies said yesterday. Industrywide light-vehicle sales increased 14 per cent, according to researcher Autodata Corp., matching analysts’ estimates.
Consumers are replacing cars and trucks that have aged to about 11 years on average after deferring purchases of new autos following the recession that ended in 2009. The demand is spurring carmakers to boost hiring and output, contributing a jolt to US economic growth.
LMC Automotive forecasts North American auto production will climb to 15.9 million vehicles this year, up 87 per cent from four years earlier.
“It’s pretty clear now that we’re in pronounced recovery, so there is no question that there is a need to have the capacity to fuel that further growth,” Jeff Schuster, a Troy, Michigan-based analyst for LMC Automotive, said in a telephone interview. “The auto industry is at the highest level in terms of importance to the US economy in a long time.”
The average estimates of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for increases of 17 per cent by Ford, 15 per cent by Chrysler and 13 per cent by GM. Toyota exceeded eight analysts’ average estimate for a 22 per cent gain.
GM climbed 0.3 per cent to $28.17 at the close yesterday in New York, and Ford rose 0.5 per cent to $13.02. Toyota’s American depositary receipts increased 2.9 per cent to $98.13 and Honda’s ADRs gained 2.5 per cent to $38.62.
“The biggest driver of this year’s story is going to be replacement,” Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of US marketing, sales and service, said yesterday on a conference call. “The age of the fleet has continued to get a little bit older” and new vehicles are “getting significantly better fuel economy.”
Ford’s subcompact, compact and midsize cars all increased sales in the same month for the first time since June 2011. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company’s deliveries of F-Series pickups surged 22 percent to 46,841.
Sales for Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA, climbed to 117,731 cars and light trucks from 101,149 a year earlier, led
by demand for its Dodge models, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said in a statement. The Dodge Dart compact had its best month since its introduction in June.
Chrysler plans to boost production to 2.6 million vehicles in 2013, from 2.4 million last year and 2 million in 2011, said Scott Garberding, senior vice president of manufacturing. The company’s sales gain in January extended Chrysler’s stretch of year-over-year increases to 34 months.
“We’re adding some capacity, but we’re more heavily utilizing everywhere the capacity that we have,” Garberding said yesterday in an interview with Tom Keene and Sara Eisen on Bloomberg Television. “Many of our factories in the US today are in fact going at full speed. Our Jeep plants are saturated” aside from a Toledo factory that is revamping for a new product.