Honda shows strength in an otherwise weak month for automakers

Honda Motor Co. was a star in an otherwise ho-hum February for automakers, posting a 9 percent increase in U.S. sales over a year ago on the strength of its redesigned Civic sedan. Others reported more modest gains and declines on Wednesday, but said sales should pick up this spring as more new vehicles hit the market.

Honda said its car sales climbed 11 percent in February, with the Civic posting a 37 percent sales increase, while truck and sport utility sales rose 5 percent. Honda's U.S. sales jumped 14 percent for the first two months of the year.

"The American consumer is rediscovering cars and the timing for the all-new 2006 Civic couldn't be better," American Honda's Executive Vice President Dick Colliver said in a statement.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. sales rose 2 percent in February, a weaker than usual performance for the No. 1 Japanese automaker. Toyota's car sales dropped 3 percent as buyers waited for the redesigned Camry to hit the market in March. But Toyota's pickup sales made up for those losses, with the Tacoma rising 26 percent and the Tundra up 11 percent for the month.

Toyota's overall sales were up nearly 8 percent for the year. Jim Press, president and COO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said spring sales should pick up because of new products and robust economic growth in the first quarter.

General Motors Corp. said sales of its domestic brands fell 3 percent in February, as car sales dipped 14 percent. Sales of trucks and SUVs rose 5 percent as GM's redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe hit the market. GM said Tahoe sales at 15,431 in February are exceeding expectations, and expects that boom will continue as the redesigned GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade reach the market this month. Overall sales for the nation's biggest automaker rose 1 percent for the year.

Paul Ballew, GM's executive director of market and industry analysis, said GM was pleased with its performance because it relied less heavily on incentives and fleet sales than in the past. Ballew said GM's incentive spending was down $1,000 (Ђ836) per vehicle from last February, while sales to corporate and government fleets fell to 25 percent of overall sales, down from 30 percent a year ago, reports AP.


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