DETROIT (WWJ) – Car sales rose five percent in February, well short of analysts expectations.

“Many people were predicting a hot February, but that wasn’t the case for several OEMs. Perhaps it was the weather, though last February also saw bad weather, perhaps it was the sudden gas price increase, but hopefully March will fare better,” said Kelley Blue Book analyst Akshay Anand.

The disappointment comes as analysts predicted the best February sales in more than a decade, with sales increases over 2014 in the eight to nine per cent range.

“The numbers are strong, they are just not to the expectations where we thought they were be,” said Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.

Some brands beat those expectations, including Toyota with a 13 percent sales increase.

“The auto industry is off to its best start since 2007 as truck demand continues to rise,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “Sales of Toyota light trucks and SUVs, led by RAV4, set a new February record.”

Hyundai also posted a seven per cent sales increase.

Fiat Chrysler was the leader among the domestics, with sales up six per cent.  The company’s Ralph Kisiel says they could have sold more vehicles if the weather had been better.

“Dealers here in the Midwest had the bitter cold, slowing sales, and ice storms in the northeast,” said Fiat Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel. “So it was a difficult month for dealers in multiple regions of the country.”

Once again the Jeep brand led the way, with sales up 21 percent. Chrysler brand sales rose 13 percent, partly on the strength of the new Chrysler 200 mid-size car.

GM sales rose four percent in February.

February was a remarkable month for trucks and crossovers and SUV’s,” says GM’s GM Cain, saying those truck sales were up 36 percent, lead by the new mid size Chevy Colorado.

GM car sales were off. The Chevrolet and GMC brands saw increases. Cadillac and Buick had a rough month.

Cain not overly concerned about any sales lost to northeast and southeast snow storms and mid-west cold.

“Weather tends to defer sales, it doesn’t knock people out of the market entirely.”

Ford sales were pushed down two percent, with strong sales of new products like the new F-150 and Mustang, and weaker sales elsewhere.

“Strong customer demand for the all-new F-150 drove strong February F-Series retail sales
results in February,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service.
“The all-new F-150 continues to be the hottest vehicles on dealer lots, turning more than four
times faster than the industry’s overall full-size pickup segment.”

The story at the imports is similar, with a solid sales report, but one impacted by the weather. Nissan sales rose about three percent in February.

“Nissan had its best February in history in spite of winter weather that gripped some key southern and eastern U.S. markets,” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Nissan U.S. Sales & Marketing and Operations. “Consumer demand for small crossovers continues to grow, and Nissan took advantage tying the best month for Rogue sales in its history.”

Honda sales rose 5 percent.  Volkswagen sales fell 5 percent.

At the middle of the month, it appeared that the strong sales pace of January was continuing.  But, then things started to slow.

“I think President’s Weekend was fairly successful,” said Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.  “But it seems like the list week it kind of died off.”

Caldwell says weaker incentives may have also hurt sales.

While expectations of the best February in a decade are not likely to be met, analysts say it’s not a bad month, and the underlying economic conditions remain positive.

“We see all the fundamentals being in place,” says Auto Trader.com’s Michelle Krebs. “Good consumer confidence, good employment, and still credit being available.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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