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[NEW YORK] Harsh winter storms chilled US auto sales in February, with Ford especially taking a hit with a surprise 1.9 per cent fall while Toyota grabbed the number-two spot after GM.
Overall, automakers' figures showed more steady growth in the industry, with low gasoline prices continuing to enhance shopping for pickup trucks and especially small and mid-sized sport utility vehicles.
Total sales came in at 1.26 million units, up 5.3 per cent from February, indicating a pace for the year of 16.2 million units, according to Autodata Corp.
Sales by General Motors, the US market leader, rose 4.2 per cent from February 2013 to 231,378 cars and trucks. Sales of trucks, SUVs and vans grew 36 per cent from a year ago.
Ford partly blamed the weather and partly a drop in fleet sales for its decline to 180,383 units, which included a 1.2 per cent fall in its key F-series trucks.
But the company said its new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup truck continued to move strongly through dealers' lots, and said it expected to begin production of the truck at a second plant this month.
"We don't know how much was weather, but you got to believe that with some of the ice storms and things that it had to have some impact on the business," Mark LaNeve, Ford vice-president for US marketing and sales, told analysts.
Ford's woes, though, worked to the benefit of Toyota, which pulled up into the number-two slot with a 13.3 per cent gain to 180,467 cars and trucks, led by surges in sales of its RAV4, Sienna and 4Runner SUVs.
Fiat Chrysler's US unit came in with a 5.6 per cent gain to 163,586 autos "in spite of snow and bitter cold that slowed auto sales in many regions of the country," noted Reid Bigland, head of US sales.
Jeep brand sales were up 21 per cent, and Ram pickups gained 12 per cent.
Among others, Honda sales rose 5.0 per cent, Nissan 2.7 per cent, Subaru 18.5 per cent, BMW 14.5 per cent and Mercedes-Benz 5.2 per cent.
Volkswagen was another notable loser for the month, its sales falling 5.2 per cent from a year ago.