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New vehicle sales to surpass one million units in February

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Feb. 23, 2012—New vehicle sales in February are expected to surpass one million units and reach a 13.8 million Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate (SAAR), a 6.4 percent increase compared to February 2011, according to Kelley Blue Book. 

Kelley Blue Book said the strong new vehicle sales numbers in February are due to increased inventory levels, improved access to credit, attractive finance offers for consumers and one additional selling day because of leap year. 

New vehicle sales have remained above a 13.6 million SAAR since November 2011, according to Kelley Blue Book. But the organization expects the annualized sales pace to slow after April as a result of inventory shortfalls from Toyota and Honda.

"From a pure volume perspective, in the months ahead sales will continue to exceed last year's figures, but this year there may be more volatility from month-to-month than in 2011," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. "Sales were remarkably flat from May through November 2011, due to the production woes faced by Toyota and Honda. Now that they are producing vehicles at full capacity, a return to traditional seasonal patterns is likely through 2012."

Consumers shopping in February and March will have an improved selection of vehicles available as a result of increased manufacturer production in January, Kelley Blue Book said. Manufacturers ramped up production in anticipation of President's Day sales promotions, and the onset of the spring selling season beginning in March.

Nearly 2.5 million vehicles were available for sale on dealer lots as of Feb. 1, equivalent to a 66-day supply of vehicles, according to Kelley Blue Book. The most significant inventory gains came from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, all of which had more than an 80-day supply of vehicles available.

Kelley Blue Book said the abundant current supply of domestic vehicles will allow consumers to negotiate the best possible prices on new vehicle purchases during the next month.

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