Overall, sales are expected to check in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of more than 15 million units, according to most analysts. Kelley Blue Book anticipates a SAAR of 15.3 million units in April. In its monthly joint survey, J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive predict a SAAR of 15.2 million units, the same as in March.
The gains come even as car prices bubble up near all-time highs, offset by near-historic low interest rates for new-car loans and by longer terms for them - up 72 months or more. Kelley Blue Book says the average price of a new car dipped slightly last month by a half-percent, but remains high at $31,356, up more than $150 from a year ago.
New cars are getting help from climbing prices for used cars, says J.D. Power and Associates senior vice president of global automotive operations John Humphrey. Used prices are up 3.8 percent year over year, which is fueling interest in new cars.
“The strong used-vehicle prices we’re seeing are supporting new vehicle demand and are reflective of the general pricing discipline being exhibited by new vehicle manufacturers,” said Humphrey.
Power partners LMC Automotive says the combination of factors don't seem to be changing in the near term, and it boosted its forecast for total 2013 light vehicle sales in the U.S. to 15.4 million units.
“Consumer spending remains remarkably stronger than the economy suggests it should be,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “If the current favorable trend in the stock markets and housing continues throughout the year, the automotive market may be poised for a breakthrough performance.”
The automakers themselves are upbeat about prospects for the remainder of the year. Chrysler estimates the April SAAR at 15.3 million vehicles, including retail and fleet.
These sales figures have been reported by the automakers:
General Motors (GM): GM said it sold 237,646 vehicles in April, posting an 11 percent gain on last year's numbers. Chevrolet was up 10.9 percent to 172,460 units and GMC rose 6.7 percent to 34,799 vehicles sold. Cadillac's 34.3 percent gain lifted sales to 13,230 vehicles, while Buick was up 11.1 percent to 17,157 units. Among model lines, the Chevy Cruze posted a 31-percent gain, while GM's big trucks were up 23 percent. Before it's replaced this fall, the current Cadillac CTS is off 42.9 percent, while the Corvette was off 30.2 percent. Sales of the extended-range Chevy Volt electric car were off 10.7 percent.
Ford (F): Ford said it posted a sales increase of 17.9 percent for April, with the Ford brand up 17.8 percent and Lincoln returning to positive numbers with a 20.7-percent increase. In all, sales totaled 212,584 units. The Fusion continues to power ahead in the family-sedan segment, with 26,722 vehicles sold--up 24 percent. Escape was up 52 percent, and the F-Series trucks rose 24 percent to 59,030 units. Lincoln's MKZ finally started digesting its backlog of cars with a record month of 4,012 sales.
Toyota (TM)/Lexus/Scion: Toyota said it sold 176,160 units in April 2013, off 1.1 percent or down 5 percent on an adjusted basis. The Toyota brand accounted for 158,069 vehicles, off 1.5 percent (-5.4 percent, adjusted) while Lexus sold 18,091 units, up 3.1 percent (-1 percent adjusted). The Avalon boosted its numbers 119.4 percent for its best month since 2007. Toyota also sold 19,889 Prius-brand vehicles in April. Scion sold 5,697 units, up 3.5 percent (-0.6 percent adjusted).
Chrysler: Chrysler said it sold 156,698 vehicles in April, an increase of 11 percent over the same period a year ago - and, it says, its best April sales since 2007. By brands, Chrysler sold 27,836 vehicles, off 13 percent, with sales of the 300 sedan dropping 47 percent. Jeep sales were up 2 percent to 39,426 units, with the Compass pointing north 23 percent. Dodge sales were up to 53,413, an increase of 18 percent on the month, with Durango up 65 percent. With 32,124 units sold, Ram's numbers were up 49 percent, while Fiat moved 3,899 500 hatchbacks, for a 1-percent gain.
Honda (HMC)/Acura: Honda said it sold 130,999 vehicles in the U.S. in April, up 7.4 percent (or 3.1 percent adjusted). Honda-branded vehicles accounted for 117,100 sales, up 6.6 percent, while Acura's 14.2 percent increase put it at 13,899 units in all. The Acura RLX automatically drew a few hundred-fold more buyers than the old RL, with just 400 units sold. The Accord was off 9 percent, though Civic sales rose by 4 percent.
Nissan (OTC:NSANY)/Infiniti: Nissan said its April sales were up strongly over the same period a year ago. In the U.S., the company reported 87,847 sales, up 23.2 percent, with Nissan-brand vehicles accounting for 80,003 units, up 24.6 percent. Infiniti sales rose 10 percent to 7,844 vehicles. Nissan said it saw strong gains in retail sales for vehicles like its core Altima sedan. The Leaf electric car posted a 423.5-percent sales increase to 1,937 units.
Hyundai (OTC:HYMLF): As usual, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik gave an early look into March sales with a Tweet delivered late last night: "Best-ever April sales of 63,315, +2%. Elantra +45%, Azera +47%, Santa Fe +8%. Inventories remain tight."
Kia (OTC:KIMTF): Kia said it sold 47,556 units in April, up 6 vehicles from last year, but still good enough for an all-time April record. Year to date sales are down - as they are for the Forte compact - but the Optima, Soul and Rio all gained sales in April versus a year ago.
Volkswagen (OTC:VLKAY): Volkswagen said it sold 33,644 units in April, down 10.3 percent from last year's levels. All its volume lines were down on the month, with Jetta off 19.2 percent and Passat off 10.2 percent, while Jetta SportWagen and Tiguan were up mildly.
Subaru: Subaru said it sold 32,943 vehicles in April, almost catching Volkswagen in the U.S. with a 25 percent gain. For the year, Subaru is up 17 percent, and the new Forester is up 65 percent over last year's April.
Mercedes-Benz (OTC:DDAIY): MBUSA reported 26,157 sales in April for the Mercedes brand, up 4.4 percent on the month. With Smart and Sprinter vehicles included, the company's year-to-date sales are up 10.2 percent, at 101,371 units. The C-Class was the brand's top seller, as usual, with 7,338 units, up 14.2 percent.
BMW/MINI: BMW said its sales rose 8.3 percent in April 2013 over a year ago, with 29,011 units moved in all - 23,225 BMWs (up 10.3 percent) and 5,786 MINIs (up 1 percent).
Mazda (OTC:MZDAF): Mazda's April U.S. sales totaled 19,894 vehicles, a 7.5 percent slide. On the year, Mazda is down 5.2 percent at 98,177 vehicles sold.
Audi (OTC:AUDVF): Audi said it moved 13,157 vehicles in April, for a 14.2 percent increase. On the year, the brand is up 15.5 percent. Sales of its Q5 crossover rose sharply - almost 32 percent - while the sleek A7 hatchback lost ground, falling 17.3 percent.
Jaguar/Land Rover: Jaguar/Land Rover sold 4,684 vehicles in April, up 7 percent from a year ago. Land Rover sold 3,543 of those vehicles, for an 8 percent rise. Jaguar sales of 1,141 units were up 6 percent from April 2012.
Volvo (OTC:VOLVY): Volvo said it sold 4,464 cars in April, a drop of 7.9 percent. On the year, Volvo's sales are off 8 percent.
Mitsubishi (OTC:MMTOF): Mitsubishi sold 4,461 vehicles, off 15.5 percent from last April.
Porsche (OTC:POAHF): With 911 and Panamera sales off, Porsche still reported sales of 4,032 vehicles, enough for its best month ever in the U.S., and a 17 percent increase, year over year.