Last month's harsh weather in the Northeast and Midwest caused many auto shoppers to stay home, pushing sales below forecasts. Jeanne Yurman reports.
The cold and snow plaguing the country last month seemed to keep auto buyers from dealers' lots. February U.S. auto sales for all but one of seven major automakers missed forecasts. And the annual sales rate of 16.2 million vehicles, according to Autodata, was well below targets. Sales had been on track until the end of the month, says Edmunds.com's Jessica Caldwell. (SOUNDBITE) JESSICA CALDWELL, SENIOR ANALYST, EDMUNDS.COM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "After President's Day weekend, it seemed like things were okay. But it seemed like the last week was particularly soft, and that's when a lot of shoppers come to dealerships, that's when dealers like to make deals, and, I think, the weather started to really wear on people, and we saw the last month not perform to expectations." Domestic luxury brands, like GM's Cadillac and Ford's Lincoln, took a hit. As did electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. What did sell? High margin SUVs and pickup trucks continue to be popular. Some analysts expect that the lost sales in February will be made up in March, especially if Japanese companies add incentives to hit sales targets for what is the end of their fiscal year. That could mean more sales but at less profit per vehicle. Reuters' reporter, Ben Clayman. (SOUNDBITE) BEN CLAYMAN, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We're going to have to see if these carmakers can keep the discipline they have when things start getting more competitive in this market. Will they start putting more money on the hood? Historically they have. Lately they haven't." Last month incentives continued to average slightly more than $2,600. Based on February's results, better weather might be the strongest incentive for now.