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March Auto Sales

Saturday - 4/6/2013, 7:33pm  ET

Edmunds.com, the car shopping website, lifted the projection for new car sales in the U.S. for 2013. It predicts 15.5 million new car sales this year. Sales haven't been this high since 2007. This new projection is 3.3% higher than the original forecast, set in September of last year.

The main reason Edmonds uses to back up this claim is that consumer demand has risen and fallen throughout the year, but Americans are feeling “wealthier.” Home prices are rising and interest rates are lowering, so it's easier to access capital to purchase a new vehicle.

It's likely 2014 will be even higher for car sales and bring stronger growth to the automotive industry. March 2013 car sales were approximately 5.3% higher than the prior year, and an impressive 24% more than February.

Toyota saw a gain of only 1% in March, but expects a 5.5% increase in car sales in 2013. General Motors  experienced a 6.4% rise from a year earlier, and Ford  rose by 5.7%.

Each of these companies has the potential for a good year ahead as people buy more vehicles. In March, car sales were broken down in these categories:

 

March 2013 Sales

Cars

753,702

Light-duty trucks

699,244

Total SUV/Cross-over

433,531

Total SUV

125,737

Total Cross-over

307,794

The only categories that declined from the same time last year were Large Cars, Minivans and Luxury SUVs. More consumers are buying light trucks and cars than any other type of vehicle, and crossover sales are improving. General Motors, Ford and Toyota are heavy hitters in these vehicle categories.

Of the 20 most popular vehicles sold in March, Ford had the most vehicle types out of the three companies:

Company

Number of Vehicle Types

Vehicle Sales

Percentage of Total

Ford

5

170,259

0.29

GM

4

102,357

0.17

Toyota

3

91,226

0.16

Other

8

223,437

0.38

Toyota management says it expects to sell 2.2 million vehicles in the U.S. under the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Sales are already up 14% in the U.S. so far this year. The company has invested $1.5 billion in facilities in the U.S. to boost operations here. Total sales for the year should come at 9.91 million – a 1.6% increase from last year. Market conditions should bring this company to a higher valuation. The stock is currently trading around $99 per share. There is a 15% upside on Toyota’s stock this year.

Toyota replaced General Motors with the highest production in 2012. So, General Motors is chasing Toyota to regain the lead in vehicle sales. General Motors had the highest boost in March vehicle sales. The demand for trucks and crossover vehicles is fueling growth for both General Motors and Ford, but the Ford F-150 is still the most popular truck being sold. Ford doesn’t expect General Motors to be able to overtake the F-150 in popularity.

The average car on the streets of America is 11 years old. There's a lot of pent up demand for new vehicle purchases. As this demand releases, these three companies will profit if they can continue to provide vehicles that consumers want. There's a lot of international and domestic competition, but these three companies will look great this year. 

This article was originally published as March Auto Saleson Fool.com

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