US auto sales below estimates in March image

All three Detroit-based automakers posted positive sales results last month, but the overall figure in the United States was weaker than the analysts’ expectations.

The total auto sale in the United States rose around 3 percent in March to 1.6 million vehicles, while the annualized rate adjusted for seasonal trends fell to 16.6 million, according to researcher Autodata Corp. The result was below the average analysts’ estimate of around 17.3 million, up from 17.1 million a year earlier and down from 17.4 million last February. Even if the demand was hampered by the Easter weekend, analysts still predict that 2016 sales would exceed the 2015 record of 17.4 million vehicles pushed by the same growth factors, such as low interest rates, strong employment and low gasoline prices.

General Motors posted only a 0.9 percent increase last month to 252,128 vehicles, short of the projected 6 percent, as the biggest US automaker cut on sale from low-margin fleets. GM sold about 449,000 vehicles to US rental car companies in 2014, it reached 400,000 vehicles in 2015 and this year expects to sell about 310,000 to 320,000 vehicles to the daily rental market.

Ford said its light-vehicle sales, excluding its heavy trucks, rose 7.8 percent to 253,064 units, almost topping analyst expectations, while Fiat-Chrysler US sales rose 8.1 percent in March, well below estimates of 220,000 to 230,000. A surprise decrease came from Toyota, as its sales dropped 2.7 percent to 219,842 vehicles, after analysts expected a rise of about 6 percent on average.