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Auto Sales On 12 Month Hot Streak

Carrying over the momentum from a prosperous January, auto sales continued to climb across the nation. Kelley Blue Book reported dealers are on track to sell 1.29 million units this month, or more than 8 percent more than last year. This marks 12 consecutive months of industry growth, and the best pace for auto sales since February 2002.

Official numbers will not be released until March 3, but already industry insiders are welcoming the news, as many expected the Northeast's brutal winter storms, rising gas prices and an operation disruption at West Coast ports to hinder new car sales and production. With January and February sales already off to a good start, many are optimistic about sales numbers throughout the rest of the year.

"While consumer confidence fell month-over-month in February, it still remains high from last year," explained Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Along with an unemployment rate that continues to drop and low interest rates, most signs remain very positive in the automotive market."

Leasing on the rise

Several factors have contributed to this rise in sales, including a robust stock market and an expanding GDP. However, reported that due to higher residual values for newer vehicles, leasing is one of the main contributing factors to the surge in car sales. Leasing penetration accounted for 27.4 percent of retail shares through the first 11 days of February - the highest it's ever reached.

In addition to the rise in leasing, incentive spending has decreased by 2.9 percent from a year ago. This means regular consumer demand is another driving factor of February's big gain in sales.

Biggest and fewest gains

With sales continuing to inch upward, cited Toyota as the company most likely to post the biggest year-over-gain, while American Honda remained close on its heels. Other automakers reaping the benefits of this growing demand include Subaru, Kia and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Conversely, even though General Motors and Ford Motor Co. should post slight gains, these are expected to be below average, and the two car companies will probably each lose a portion of their market share.

The Detroit Bureau cited a forecast from LMC Automotive predicting total vehicle sales in 2015 to reach about 17.5 million units, which should surpass last year's total of 16.5 million.

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