By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s no “April Fool’s” joke for the auto industry. As car companies prepare to announce March sales figures on Tuesday, it appears this will be the best month the industry has seen in over five years.

“We’re not quite back to pre-recession levels, but the industry is getting closer to a full recovery every month,” said Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell.

Edmunds projects sales will be up 5.3 percent from March of 2012, and up 24 percent from February of 2013, for a total of 1,478,208 new car sales in the month. That would make Monday the best sales month since May of 2007.

Rival forecasting firm is only slightly less optimistic, saying it will be the best sales month since August of 2007.

“Sales will be boosted by record low-interest rates and a slowly improving job market, which recently saw the unemployment rate and new unemployment claims fall to five-year lows,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. “In addition, with attractive financing and ample inventory to choose from, many people receiving tax refunds will use their returns toward a down payment on a new vehicle this month.”

It’s expected to be a particularly strong month for pickup trucks, with good deals and a recovering economy.

“Although incentives have helped boost truck sales in recent months, a steady climb in housing starts will continue to support the truck market even if incentive spending declines,” said Gutierrez. “Incentives aren’t expected to come down anytime soon, especially with a more than 90-day supply of Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 pickups available for sale nationwide. With supply still ample and incentives plentiful, consumers looking for a new pickup truck should not hesitate to pull the trigger.”

General Motors is expected to lead the domestics. So far all company executives will say is that it was another strong month in a series of strong months.

“We came out of the chute here good with December, January, February,” said GM North America President Mark Reuss. “We see the momentum continuing. I don’t think there is anything crazy going on in the industry right now, just steady.”

It’s expected to be a steady month for Ford, and while there had been concern that inventory issues would end Chrysler’s year over year sales streak at 35 months, sales Chief Reid Bigland indicated otherwise during a presentation at the New York Auto Show.

“Candidly, I’m looking to make March number 36.”

Chrysler is generally the first to report car sales, with numbers coming out at 8 AM on Tuesday morning. All of the domestics generally have their reports announced by 10 AM, with everybody’s sales numbers revealed by early afternoon.

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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