U.S. car sales in March are expected to rise to 1,477,000 units, a 1.7% gain from a year ago . The pace is not the sort the industry came to expect in 2012 and 2013. However, the dealer traffic damage done by the poor winter weather has probably ended.
According to Edmunds, a small number of the major brands will account for the improvement. First among these is Chrysler Group LLC, the ownership of which is controlled by Italian manufacturer Fiat. It has been – and still is — the smallest of The Big Three. In March it is expected to well outperform its two rivals
Edmunds expects Chrysler sales to rise 11.1% from March 2013. It is the only one of the major brands which is predicted to have a double digit improvement. Unit sales are expected to reach 190,684. That will put its performance relatively close to Japanese juggernaut Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), whose sales are expected at 207,531 units, up only 1.1%. This March had 26 selling days compared to 27 in March 2013.
The top two spots will continue to be held by the traditional industry leaders. General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) sales should rise 0.5% to 247,101. Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) sales are expected to rise 1.6% to 239,423. Industry laggard Volkswagen AG will continue to struggle with sales off 4.2% to 48,825. VW vies with GM and Toyota each year for the spot as the world’s largest car company by units sold. It is the leading car company in Europe, and competes for that title with China–the world’s largest car market. Without a strong foothold in the United States — the world’s second largest market – it will be nearly impossible to overtake either GM or VW.
Chrysler’s improvement is especially impressive for two reasons. The first is the its does so poorly in customer satisfaction studies. In the latest J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, Chrysler ranked well below average, and its Jeep and Dodge brands did even worse.
Chrysler also has a more modest model line than other large car companies. Its flagship division has two mainstays – -the 300 and 200. Jeep competes in a market packed with other SUVs. And its Dodge sports division competes with both U.S. sports line-ups and popular products from both Europe and Japan.
Despite these barriers, Chrysler’s growth in March will be the envy of the industry