Overall automobile sales slipped in February but sales of light trucks and SUVs remained strong despite the rebound in gasoline prices.
Total vehicle sales fell 2.4 percent to 16.16 million on an annualized basis in February, from 16.56 million the month before, for the slowest annual rate in ten months. Domestically produced cars dropped to 12.87 million, 3.3 percent lower than the 13.31 million in January, according to Ward's Automotive Group.
Light trucks and SUVs tend to be more expensive and profitable for the manufacturers. Buyers have returned to these heavier vehicles, despite the rebound in gasoline prices in February, to the highet rates in almost a decade. In February they represented 54 percent of the market. If that pace continuted for the year it would be the highest level for these vehicles since 2005.
The price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.44 yesteday, reported the American Automobile Association. It rose 17.4 percent in February, from $2.06 on the 1st to $2.41 on the 28th. It was the steepest one month gain in almost five years, though prices remain 34 percent beneath last April's $3.69 peak.
General Motors and Toyota were among the sales standouts, listing 4.2% and 13.3% gains, respectively.
Fiat Chrysler and Nissan Motors reported lower-than-expected volumes in February. Chrysler's sales rose 6 percent, propelled by booming interest in Jeep, while Nissan's purchases gained 2.7 percent. Honda's sales climbed 5 percent on the year.
Ford reported a 2 percent decline in February as demand for passenger cars fell and it instituted a production change-over for its most some of its most popular models, the F-150 pickup and the Edge crossover SUV.
In general ight-vehicle sales topped 1.2 million during the month, at least 5% higher than the same period in 2014, according to initial estimates.