Automobile industry wrap-up: Fields day at Ford, trucks pace U.S. sales gains

|By:, SA News Editor

Automobile sales in the U.S. showed solid gains in April as Nissan (NSANY), Toyota (TM), and Chrysler (FIATY) all posted double-digit sales growth. General Motors (GM) bested estimates with a 6.9% gain, while Ford (F) had a strong pace of truck sales although car sales came in light.

Pricing and incentives: The industry averaged $2,751 in incentives per vehicle in April, up 8.9% Y/Y and 1% M/M. Japanese automakers (HYMLF, HMC, NSANY) led the promotional charge. The average transaction price was estimated to be 1.2% higher at $32,141. Detroit automakers saw solid pricing trends in most segments.

Trucks: Sales gains at most major automakers were paced by strong demand for pickup trucks. Gains at Ford (8%), Nissan (10.5%), and Chrysler (34%) stood out.

2014 forecast: Demand in April was strong enough to keep a sales forecast for +16M units  for the year in place. New models continue to sell well, but inventory levels will be closely watched as investments continue to pour into North American factories.

CEO transition: Ford handed the reigns to Mark Fields a bit sooner than anticipated today. Wall Street analysts see a smooth transition with Fields strongly aligned with the course already laid out by Alan Mulally. "It's a story of continuity," Fields told reporters today.

Tesla watching: Tesla Motors (TSLA) could show a year-over-year decline in deliveries in North America this year, forecasts Morgan Stanley. The investment firm isn't panicked over the potential deceleration in Model S sales growth, noting the long-term story of Tesla disrupting the industry still plays.