Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC reported U.S. sales increases for April, building on the first sweep of market share gains by all three domestic automakers in the first quarter of any year in two decades.
Ford sales of cars and light trucks rose 18% to 211,984, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said today in a statement. Deliveries for Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA, climbed 11% to 156,698. The average estimates of 11 analysts in a survey by Bloomberg were for gains of 17% by Ford and 10% by Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler.
For the first time since 1993, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors Co. pulled off a sweep in the first three months of a year, with all three gaining U.S. market share in 2013’s first quarter. Analysts’ estimates call for all three to post bigger sales gains in April than Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which may test the resilience of U.S. automakers’ advances as they increasingly benefit from a weakening yen.
“Detroit should celebrate while they can because the race is tight,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst for auto researcher Edmunds.com, said in an interview. “The Japanese have a yen advantage right now, and we could start seeing them use that in pricing and in extra marketing.”
U.S. light-vehicle sales probably climbed 11% in April to 1.31 million, the average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have risen to 15.2 million, the average of 17 estimates, from 14.1 million a year earlier. That would keep the market on pace for its best year since 2007.
Ford rose 1% to $13.74 at 9:46 a.m. in New York trading. GM slipped 0.3% to $30.74.
Deliveries for Chrysler, the third-largest U.S. automaker, have increased 37 consecutive months, the longest stretch in the company’s records that date back to 1985. The automaker said earlier this week that first-quarter net income slid 65% in part because introducing the new Ram Heavy Duty truck and Jeep Grand Cherokee and Compass SUVs raised costs and reduced output.
“You should see a substantial improvement in numbers” starting this quarter, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler and Fiat, said of U.S. sales on an April 29 conference call. “Now that the launch issues in connection with the Grand Cherokee and the Ram Heavy Duty are behind us, the big issue for us now is to execute flawlessly on the launch of the Cherokee.”
Chrysler today forecast a 15.4 million industry sales pace for April, including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which typically account for at least 200,000 deliveries per year. Deliveries surged 49% for Ram pickups to 31,409 and 27% for the Grand Cherokee to 15,003.
Nissan Motor Co. posted a 23% increase for April, according to an e-mailed statement. The Yokohama, Japan-based company missed eight analysts’ average estimate for a 26% surge.
Ford, GM and Chrysler gained 0.7, 0.5 and 0.2 percentage points of market share during the first quarter, the first time all three have gained ground in that period of a year since the height of the sport-utility vehicle boom, according to Automotive News Data Center, which conducted the analysis at the request of Bloomberg News.
GM, which is introducing redesigned Chevrolet Silverado pickups and Impala sedans this quarter, may report a 10% increase in U.S. sales for April, the average of 11 estimates.
U.S. automakers’ strides have been building in the past half-decade after a painful downturn spurred restructurings that spared only Ford from bankruptcy. The three companies rid themselves of uncompetitive cost structures and plowed investments into cars that could hang with Japan’s giants.
The gains being made by U.S. automakers are widespread. Ford’s Fusion, which ranked outside the ten best-selling models last year, jumped to No. 6 this year through March. The 38% sales increase posted by Detroit-based GM’s Cadillac was the largest of any brand in the industry during that span, and Chrysler’s passenger-car deliveries surged almost a third.
Ford’s record $2.4 billion pretax profit in North America during the first quarter was powered by its industry-leading F- Series trucks, the new Fusion sedan and the redesigned Escape utility vehicle. Deliveries rose 24% in April for both the F-Series and Fusion, and sales of the Escape surged 52%.
Toyota, which is based in Toyota City, added 0.3 percentage points of U.S. market share through March, while Tokyo-based Honda’s share was little changed and Nissan lost 0.7 points, according to Autodata Corp.
The yen has weakened about 18% against the dollar since Oct. 31, the most among major currencies, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advocated for a decline to aid his country’s economy. Morgan Stanley has estimated the currency boost will give Japanese automakers an advantage of about $1,500 per car, while U.S. carmakers have put the figure at $5,700 per vehicle.
Honda and Toyota sales may have risen 7.3% and 3.1% in April, respectively, the average estimate of eight analysts.
Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. are losing some of the gains they made in the U.S. during the past two decades. The two Seoul-based affiliates, which report sales separately, lost 0.2 and 0.6 percentage points of market share respectively through the first three months, according to Autodata.
Combined sales for the two companies probably slipped 2.4% in April, the average of seven estimates. Deliveries for the Hyundai brand rose 1.7% to 63,315, the company said in a posting on Twitter.
Volkswagen AG, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, may post a 3.3% gain in combined sales for its Volkswagen and Audi brands in April, the average of four estimates. Volkswagen brand deliveries declined 10% to 33,644, according to an e- mailed statement.