March will be test of US auto demand


As the spring thaw nears, automakers hope that applies to March sales, too.

Sales have been slower than expected so far this year and this month's results could tell automakers whether the slowdown was due to historic cold temperatures and snowfall - as many believe - or if there are deeper reasons for sagging demand.

Automakers entered 2014 expecting to sell more than 16 million cars and trucks for the first time since the recession. But so far, sales are on pace to hit around 15 million, which would be 600,000 less than last year.

General Motors, Ford and Toyota all reported U.S. sales declines for February. The country's top three automakers by sales said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

Industry analysts expect overall sales to rise about 1 percent for March, a slow pace compared with the 8 percent increase for all of last year.

Chrysler and Nissan were able to notch double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

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