Winter dragged on in February and car sales for many automakers remained in hibernation, at least for the first half of the month. Shoppers shunned popular sedans like the Honda Accord (down 12.1 percent), Ford Fusion (down 14.3 percent), Toyota Camry (down 7.3 percent) and Hyundai Sonata (down 30.1 percent). They did buy more Chevrolet Malibus and Nissan Altimas, however, placing the Altima atop the car-only pile for February, a roost it last held in March 2013.
That wasn't the only changing of the guard. Shoppers gravitated toward the Chevrolet Cruze last month (up 21.7 percent versus a weak February 2013) but drifted from the Honda Civic (down 5 percent versus an also-weak February 2013); the Civic hasn't been absent from the top 10 best-sellers list since September 2012.
As we expected, snow-ready cars had their day. We reported Feb. 20 that sales for all-wheel-drive vehicles were up some 20 percent in the first part of the year. Indeed, shoppers preferred off-road brands: Land Rover gained 3 percent and Subaru climbed 24 percent. Jeep saw the highest gains, with sales up 47.4 percent. Shoppers bought more Jeep Cherokees, Grand Cherokees and Wranglers than 16 other nameplates across Fiat Chrysler's five U.S. brands. Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, said February's harsh weather across most of the country "has been ideally suited" for the brand, which had the best February in its 73-year existence.