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February auto sales jump 24 per cent to highest-ever sales for the month: DesRosiers

TORONTO — February auto sales hit an all-time high for the month after jumping 24.4 per cent from last year, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. said Monday.

Sales totalled an "astounding" 129,000 units for the month, the consultancy said, up from around 104,000 for the same month last year.

The sales total also eclipsed the 125,000 units sold in February 2020, the last time the month had an extra day and just before the pandemic threw the industry into turmoil.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.1 million units for the unseasonably warm month was the highest since January 2018, said DesRosiers.

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The latest sales figures, marking the 16th consecutive month of year-over-year growth, shows many of the challenges faced by the industry are now under control, said Andrew King, managing partner at DesRosiers, in a release.

“February 2024 sales tell us that some of the hurdles of recent years — and specifically the supply constraints of new vehicles — are now well and truly in the rear-view mirror.”

The pandemic had created supply issues both through plant shutdowns and a surge in demand for electronics that led the auto industry to have a shortfall of semiconductors. The disruptions led to a shortage of supply and a surge in pricing as automakers focused on their priciest and most profitable models.

Production is expected to finally return to pre-pandemic levels this year.

A Scotiabank report last month estimated that North American production should hit 16 million units this year, roughly in line with the 10-year pre-pandemic average.

Last year's production was estimated at 15.6 million units, while the 2021 low was 12.9 million.

But while production is recovering, prices are still elevated.

The average price of a new vehicle hit $67,259 in December, up 14.2 per cent from a year earlier, said AutoTrader in its latest monthly report. The average for used vehicles reached $36,863, a 1.7 per cent increase.

More supply does look to be at least taking pressure off price growth. The average new vehicle price in December was down 0.3 per cent from November, while the used vehicle price was down 2.4 per cent from the previous month.

But even with prices high, King said there is enough pent-up demand to keep helping drive sales.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2024.

The Canadian Press