The biggest positive news among volume brands has come from Chrysler, VW and Kia, but GM was essentially flat last month.
Most automakers have now reported their February 2012 sales figures, which paint a generally positive picture for nearly every volume brand. Chrysler, Volkswagen and Kia have the most reason to celebrate, but there is plenty of good news for Ford and Toyota.
The same can't be said for General Motors, where sales seem to have leveled off in response to a particularly strong February 2011.
Both GM and Ford estimate that the seasonally-adjusted annual sales rate - an educated guess as to what the final sales figure will be for the industry as a whole in the United States - has increased to just short of 15 million. That's a very positive number that brings the industry much closer to its pre-recession levels.
Acura - Up 0.1 percent to 11,258
Audi - Up 10 percent to 8,531
BMW - Up 29 percent to 21,204
Buick - Down 11 percent to 14,023
Cadillac - Down 27 percent to 11,505
Chevrolet - Up 6 percent to 151,197
Chrysler - Up 114 percent to 27,008
Dodge - Up 27 percent to 42,692
Fiat - 3,227
Ford - Up 14 percent to 172,207
GMC - Up 0.1 percent to 32,581
Honda - Up 9 percent to 98,899
Hyundai - Up 18 percent to 51,151
Infiniti - Up 1 percent to 9,239
Jaguar - Up 48 percent to 1,022
Jeep - Up 30 percent to 37,312
Kia - Up 37 percent to 45,038
Land Rover - Up 27 percent to 3,255
Lexus - Up 21 percent to 16,678
Lincoln - Up 16 percent to 6,912
Maserati - Up 20 percent to 191
Mazda - Up 32 percent to 25,651
Mercedes-Benz - Up 17 percent to 18,910
Mitsubishi - Down 31 percent to 4,736
MINI - Up 42 percent to 4,980
Nissan - Up 17 percent to 97,492
Porsche - Up 6 percent to 2,149
Ram - Up 15 percent to 23,282
Smart - Up 59 percent to 769
Subaru - Up 17 percent to 25,374
Suzuki - Up 48 percent to 2,425
Toyota (Includes Scion) - Up 12 percent to 142,745
Volkswagen - Up 42 percent to 30,703
Volvo - Up 10 percent to 5,263
BMW Group - Up 32 percent to 26,184
Chrysler - Up 40 percent to 133,521
Daimler - Up 18 percent to 19,683
Ford Motor Company - Up 14 percent to 179,119
General Motors - Up 1 percent to 209,306
American Honda - Up 8 percent to 110,157
Hyundai Group - Up 26 percent to 96,189
Jaguar Land Rover - Up 32 percent to 4,277
Nissan North America - Up 16 percent to 106,731
Toyota USA - Up 12 percent to 159,423
2011 YTD Numbers
Acura - Up 3 percent to 19,639
Audi - Up 15 percent to 17,885
BMW - Up 16 percent to 37,609
Buick - Down 17 percent to 24,231
Cadillac - Down 28 percent to 20,429
Chevrolet - Up3 percent to 275,061
Chrysler - Up 100 percent to 44,612
Dodge - Up 28 percent to 74,146
Fiat - 5,138
Ford - Up 12 percent to 303,796
GMC - Down 4 percent to 57,547
Honda - Up 9 percent to 173,527
Hyundai - Up 16 percent to 93,845
Infiniti - Down 3 percent to 16,035
Jaguar - Up 23 percent to 2,007
Jeep - Up 34 percent to 69,022
Kia - Up 33 percent to 80,555
Land Rover - Up 34 percent to 6,460
Lexus - Up 8 percent to 28,952
Lincoln - Up 5 percent to 12,033
Maserati - Up 26 percent to 345
Mazda - Up 48 percent to 49,647
Mercedes-Benz - Up 20 percent to 40,140
Mitsubishi - Down 25 percent to 9,447
MINI - Up 33 percent to 8,314
Nissan - Up 15 percent to 170,009
Porsche - Up 6 percent to 4,699
Ram - Up 25 percent to 41,752
Smart - Up 50 percent to 1,265
Subaru - Up 19 percent to 48,181
Suzuki - Down 7 percent to 3,930
Toyota (Includes Scion) - Up 10 percent to 255,011
Volkswagen - Up 45 percent to 58,030
Volvo - Up 7 percent to 9,724
BMW Group - Up 19 percent to 45,923
Chrysler - Up 42 percent to 234,670
Daimler - Up 21 percent to 41,413
Ford Motor Company - Up 11 percent to 315,829
General Motors - Down 2 percent to 377,268
American Honda - Up 9 percent to 193,166
Hyundai Group - Up 23 percent to 174,400
Jaguar Land Rover - Up 31 percent to 8,467
Nissan North America - Up 13 percent to 186,044
Toyota USA - Up 10 percent to 283,963
Chrysler had its best February since 2008, which also marks its 23rd consecutive month of gains. Granted, Chrysler saw some of its worst sales ever about two years ago, but its picture is still fairly bright. Chrysler division was the brightest spot, especially the 300 sedan, which nearly quintupled its February 2011 number. Jeep and Dodge also had pretty solid months overall.
Ford's biggest gain came from its Focus, which topped 20,000 sales for the first time in a while. Sales were up 115 percent for the compact car, but that's over an especially weak February 2011. The brand also nearly doubled Mustang sales, while its pickups gained as well. But nearly everything else in its portfolio saw a modest decline.
GM continues to suffer, although the automaker is quick to correctly point out that it had an especially strong start to 2011. The biggest decline came at Cadillac, although that brand is down two products compared to this time last year (DTS and STS). Buick also struggled; its new Verano's 1,688 deliveries couldn't offset the 2,574 Lucernes it sold last year (yes, we realize the Verano did not replace the Lucerne). Chevrolet was the automaker's only bright spot last month.
Honda seems to be turning around its mainstream product sales; redesigned Civic and CR-V models had strong months with sales up 36 and 25 percent, respectively. Acura's sales were mostly flat overall, and it sold just 56 ZDXs and 28 RLs.
Hyundai saw its best-ever February, and it says that retail sales were up 29 percent, while overall sales were up 18 percent. Sonata remains its volume player, but nearly every one of its products boasted an improved month.
Kia finished its 18th-consecutive month of record-breaking sales on strong numbers for nearly all of its products. A small decline in Sportage and Sorento demand was offset by more than twice as many Optima deliveries (up to 11,558).
Mazda's financial woes have made the news lately, but things might turn around quickly if it keeps breaking sales records. It posted its best February since 1994 on strong demand for its Mazda3 and Mazda6, which were up 40 and 80 percent, respectively.
Nissan posted its best-ever February on strong demand for a number of its products, but its biggest standout was definitely the Altima. Although a redesigned model will debut in a month at the New York show, Nissan delivered 58 percent more Altimas last month than they did last year. In fact, Nissan's midsizer outsold the Chevrolet Silverado.
Toyota's two divisions are posting a turnaround thanks to their mainstream sedans. At Toyota, demand was up more than 50 percent for Yaris and Avalon, while Camry surged ahead of rivals to become the country's second-best selling vehicle last month. Lexus saw demand increase 560 percent for its redesigned GS, which was its second-best selling passenger car. Trucks and crossovers were down for both divisions, however.
Audi once again broke a monthly record, its 14th consecutive month to do so. Demand was up for Q5, A6 and A3, but down slightly for A4 and A8. Q7 slid nearly 50 percent.
February was BMW's best such month in five years, and its redesigned 3-Series provided the biggest boost (up 66 percent). MINI was an even stronger performer with sales up nearly 50 percent.
Chrysler's Fiat brand had its best month since relaunching here about a year ago.
Jaguar bounced back strongly last month on increased demand for its XF and XK models; XF sales nearly doubled, while XK sales nearly tripled, although volume for both models remains low.
VW had its best February in nearly 40 years, with its Passat boasting its best month in more than a decade. While VW is still a long way off from its goal of selling 800,000 cars annually (combined with Audi), it still had plenty of reason to celelbrate last month. Passat's 8,189 deliveries mark a comical 11,434 percent improvement over last year, when 71 leftover outgoing models were sold.
Leftlane's bottom line
Perhaps the biggest morsel of news to come out of today's sales figures is GM and Ford's estimate that annual sales could hit nearly 15 million if they continue at their current pace. That's still a ways off of the 16.1 million new cars sold five years ago in 2007 and that was down from 17 million just a couple of years before.
The biggest beneficiary so far is Chrysler, which emerged from the doldrums of especially weak sales in 2009, 2010 and early 2011. But look beyond the headlines and you'll see continued steady and increasingly rapid progress from Hyundai, VW and Kia. All three brands are hardly finished with their new product onslaughts and all three are vying to be uttered in the same breath as industry stalwarts like Toyota, General Motors, Ford and even Nissan.