The tally of new-car sales for April doesn’t seem that impressive at first glance. Actually, they seem sorta bad. TrueCar’s estimates have it that April sales are down 14.8% from March, while Edmunds puts the drop at 15.8%. By the time April is over, somewhere between 1.182 million and 1.196 million new cars will be sold, down from approximately 1.4 million in March.
But there were 27 car sale days in March, compared to just 24 in April. Besides, the more important figure is how April 2012’s sales compare to those of April 2011. Despite the fact that April 2011 had three more days for sales than this April—again, 27 to 24—April 2012’s sales are up compared to the year before. They’re up 2.1% to 3.4%, according to Edmunds and TrueCar, respectively.
Including April, new-car sales thus far in 2012 have been so strong that the forecasters at Edmunds, TrueCar, and Kelley Blue Book have all revised their predictions on how many cars will be sold by year’s end. The latest estimates put the figure at 14.2 million to 14.6 million new car purchases, up from earlier predictions that were as low as 13.5 million sales.
Nissan, Toyota, and Chrysler all posted particularly good sales months in April, with unit sales of 10% or more than the year before. Chrysler is on perhaps the most remarkable run of all. Compared to April 2011, the automaker is in the process of selling nearly 20% more cars this month, continuing a hot streak that began in late 2011 and has remained strong through early 2012.
When Fiat merged with Chrysler, the Italian automaker was seen as the savior and Chrysler as more or less dead weight. But, as the Detroit Free Press recently reported, it is now Chrysler that is keeping Fiat out of the red. With Italy’s economy in a slump, auto sales have plunged, and Fiat would have lost $361 million had it not been for Chrysler’s strong performance—which brought the company an overall quarterly profit of a whopping $500 million:
“It goes without saying that we are incredibly satisfied with the performance of Chrysler for the first quarter of this year,” Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said. “It has been undoubtedly a good market, but I think it is fair to say Chrysler has fired on all cylinders.”
Ba-dum-bump. People in the auto industry really like to shift things into overdrive with all of those car metaphors and clichés. There’s just no putting that practice into reverse, I’m afraid.
Even though April sales estimates are out, the month obviously isn’t over. It’s the end of the month when the best deals on cars are available, and this month is no exception. Consumer Reports and TrueCar have both rounded up contenders for the best end-of-the-month incentives and deals for new cars. The latter’s list offers a clue as to why Chrysler’s sales have been so strong: It starts with Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep offers that instantly knock $3,500 to $4,000 off the price.