Along with what has been a steady drumbeat of weaker than expected data, this morning’s release of auto sales was generally weaker than expected. Within the monthly release of auto sales, we pay special attention to sales of Ford trucks. The reason for this is that sales of pickup trucks are often a sign of strength or weakness in the small business and construction sectors as these types of businesses are the most common users of these vehicles. After a strong January, where sales of F-series trucks rose by more than 16%, sales unexpectedly declined in the month of February. Compared to last year’s February total of 55,882, sales of F-Series trucks declined 1.2% this February to a total of 55,236. Weather is surely to blame for at least some of this month’s weakness, but 2014 wasn’t exactly a mild winter, so it is not as if Ford was working with tough comps. The fact that economic data has been missing consensus expectations at such a high rate coupled with the weak truck sales from Ford suggests that the US economy is having some trouble living up to expectations.
While sales declined this February compared to last year, year to date sales are still up 7% in 2015 versus 2014, which is owed in large part to January’s 17% increase as sales of the new F-150 boosted results. While February’s y/y decline ended a five-year streak of increases, YTD sales through February have now increased for six straight years.