Brutal Winter Weather Freezes US Auto Sales

Brutal Winter Weather Freezes US Auto Sales

"When the weather doesn't behave, it has a negative impact on car shoppers who are looking for an easy and smooth process at the dealership," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds.com.

CHICAGO - Brutal winter weather chilled U.S. auto sales in February, with General Motors (IW 500/5) and Ford (IW 500/8) reporting losses Monday even as rival Chrysler extended a winning streak.

Total industry sales were forecast to come in essentially flat once all automakers have reported, which would be better than the 3% drop posted in January.

The U.S. auto industry had been on a years-long growth spurt as it recovered from a deep downturn following the 2008 financial crisis.

Analysts expect that growth to return with better weather.

"When the weather doesn't behave, it has a negative impact on car shoppers who are looking for an easy and smooth process at the dealership," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the automotive site Edmunds.com.

"The strength of pent-up demand promises to keep sales on the right path as spring approaches."

GM's sales fell 1% to 222,104 vehicles in February, but the largest U.S. automaker forecast strong growth to come.

"Weather continued to impact the industry in February, but GM sales started to thaw during the Winter Olympic Games as our brand and marketing messages took hold," GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said in a statement.

"Despite a slower start to 2014 than most people expected, we look forward to a very successful year, backed by plenty of new products and what should be the strongest GDP growth since the end of the recession."

Ford's sales fell 6% to 183,947 vehicles, in part because deliveries of vehicles to fleet customers were delayed by the wintry weather.

Chrysler continued to outpace its rivals and posted its 47th consecutive month of gains -- and its best February since 2007 -- as sales rose 11% to 154,866 vehicles.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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