Carmakers Say Sales Were Sluggish in Chilly February

Severe cold weather across much of the country stalled new-vehicle sales in February, even as sales of some trucks and sport utility vehicles remained strong, automakers reported on Monday.

Overall sales were flat for the month, according to figures from Autodata Corporation. Automakers sold 1.2 million vehicles in February, the same as February last year, for an annualized rate of 15.34 million and below the 16 million vehicles the industry expects to sell this year.

After a winter of lackluster sales, automakers remain optimistic that they will recoup lost winter sales in March and April, but some analysts say it remains an open question.

“We’ve had two bad months, three if you count December,” said George Magliano, an analyst with IHS Automotive. “Inventory has been building, and the industry is gearing up for a big incentive war. So it’s going to take more than one month,” he said, to make up for weak performance.

Sales fell 1 percent at General Motors, the largest domestic carmaker, and 6 percent at Ford Motor, for a second straight month of declines.

The Chrysler Group said its sales rose 11 percent, to 154,866 units, for its best February performance in seven years, in part on the strength of its Jeep brand, which gained 47 percent for the month. The new Jeep Cherokee midsize sport utility vehicle posted its second-best monthly performance since arriving in dealerships last October.

Chrysler also fared best in the pickup truck segment, reporting an increase of 26 percent for its Ram pickup. Ford said sales of its F-Series, the country’s best-selling vehicle, advanced 2.6 percent to 55,882 units, its best February in eight years.

But G.M. said sales of its Chevrolet Silverado and Avalanche and GMC Sierra pickup trucks fell 12 percent as it resisted offering the incentives. Meanwhile, the automaker’s sales mix is shifting toward more feature-laden vehicles starting at $40,000, said James Cain, a G.M. spokesman.

Toyota and Volkswagen said they were hit hard by the winter weather and February’s short sales month.

Toyota’s sales declined 4.3 percent for the month. The Toyota division fell 5.8 percent, to 140,429 vehicles sold, but its luxury Lexus brand increased by 8.7 percent, to 18,855.

At Volkswagen, which plans to introduce several models of its Golf compact family this year, brand sales tumbled 13.8 percent.

Trucks were a sweet spot at Nissan, with sales of its Frontier pickup more than doubling for the month.

The Nissan Group also reported a robust February performance, with sales up 15.8 percent, to 115,360 vehicles. Sales rose 16.7 percent for its Nissan division, partly on the strength of its new Rogue crossover, the automaker said.

Sales of its all-electric Leaf car also more than doubled for the month, compared with the Chevrolet Volt, which fell more than 25 percent.

Cars did not sell as well as larger vehicles, as midsize sedans lost market share to crossover sport utility vehicles, said Mark Wakefield, director in the automotive practice at the global consulting firm AlixPartners. Sales for the Buick Enclave, a luxury crossover, soared 92.7 percent, for example.

Crossovers, a bright spot for automakers recently along with trucks, “are a similar size vehicle, but a little more capable and a little higher up on the road,” Mr. Wakefield said.

Ford’s car sales fell 13.6 percent, with declines for every model except the Mustang. Ford’s Lincoln brand, though, gained 36 percent.

“Despite all the challenges in January and February, quite frankly, the month was pretty robust,” John Felice, Ford vice president for United States marketing, sales and service, said on a conference call Monday.

G.M.’s Buick marque surged 18.8 percent, while sales fell 2.9 percent for both Cadillac and Chevrolet. GMC sales fell 0.6 percent.

At Chrysler, the Dodge brand sales tumbled 11 percent, lifted by a 15 percent advance for the Durango full-size sport utility vehicle, which reported its best February performance since 2006. Sales rose 1 percent for its Chrysler brand and 5 percent for its Fiat brand.