By Aaron Bragman on March 31, 2014
The final month of winter continued to be a challenging one for many automakers. Poor weather through large swaths of the country dampened sales in many regions buried under snow and ice. March capped off a weak sales quarter, which saw inventories swell and incentive spending boosted to lure customers into showrooms. The past month proved that signs of spring are finally upon us, and for some automakers the thaw came early to dealers across the U.S., especially those selling trucks and luxury cars.
In fact, trucks led much of the sales gains for March, with especially strong performances from Ram, Ford and Toyota. The Ram brand had its best month for pickup sales in a decade, and the brand as a whole posted a 29 percent gain year-over-year in March versus March 2013. Ford's F-Series was up as well, jumping 5.1 percent for the month, while Toyota's Tundra posted its best sales month since August 2008. The Chevrolet Silverado saw a 6.8 percent gain, while the GMC Sierra sales were up by 22 percent.
Luxury brands did quite well too, with nearly every brand reporting higher sales for March — some of them significantly higher. By percentage gain, Lincoln actually led the field with a 31 percent boost thanks to improved sales of the MKZ — but March's volume of less than 9,000 vehicles for the whole brand still makes Lincoln a fringe player. Lexus saw sales climb 23 percent; BMW was up 19 percent, and even Porsche saw a 9 percent improvement compared with March 2013. Acura saw a gain of nearly 15 percent, driven by the redesigned MDX, which itself was up more than 80 percent from March 2013. Only Cadillac saw a decline; SRX and CTS gains weren't enough to overcome significant drops in the ATS, XTS and Escalade sales.
The popular midsize sedan class saw a mixed performance compared to February's lackluster sales. Leading the way again is the Toyota Camry with an 11.4 percent climb to just less than 42,000 cars over March 2013's numbers. The Camry reclaimed the best-selling title for March from the Nissan Altima. The Altima saw a minor 4.9 percent drop to stay in second place in the midsize sedan category, but Ford's Fusion had its best sales month ever, up 8.8 percent to nearly 33,000 cars for the month. The Honda Accord saw a sales decline of 7 percent to just less than 34,000 cars, nearly tying the Fusion. But that improvement in Fusion sales may have come at the expense of other Ford cars, with sales of the Focus, Fiesta and Taurus lagging.
General Motors' recall woes and congressional hearings didn't seem to dampen March sales, with the company posting a 4.1 percent overall gain for the month. Sales of the company's Chevrolet cars didn't seem to be appreciably affected either, with the Malibu, Cruze, Sonic and Spark all posting gains. The Corvette was especially popular with a 230 percent jump, despite the harsh winter conditions in much of the country. With attention on the GM recalls only getting stronger, we'll see how GM fares in April.
Here are March's top 10 best-sellers:
Cars.com photo by Evan Sears
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron