Strength in New-Vehicle Retail Sales is Driving Performance in February

New-vehicle retail sales performance in February has been strong month-to-date, with the selling rate outperforming January’s, according to a monthly sales forecast developed by J.D. Power and Associates Power Information Network┬« (PIN) and LMC Automotive.

February new-vehicle retail sales are projected to come in at 857,400 units, an increase of 5 percent from February 2011. This represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 12.0 million units, which is more than a million unit increase in the selling rate from January 2012. Retail transactions are the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.

In addition to pent-up demand due to an aging fleet, factors driving this optimism include a rebound in leasing and availability of consumer credit and long-term financing. Through the first 17 selling days of February 2012, lease penetration is at 20 percent, up from a low of 13 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 72-month loans account for 23 percent of all retail sales in February 2012 — the highest level in five years — up from 19 percent in February 2011. In fact, 72-month loans have increased in 20 of the 27 vehicle segments, with the largest increases in the compact sporty, sub-compact conventional and large utility segments.

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