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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

AutoNation CEO predicts: Ford is 'red hot' in March

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AutoNation CEO predicts: Ford is 'red hot' in March

Shift to Japanese models is over

BY SARAH A. WEBSTER

FREE PRESS AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR

U.S. auto sales for March are to be reported later this day, but the happy predictions about the results keep pouring in.

Today on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation Inc., the largest chain of auto dealerships in the United States, predicted the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for March would top 12 million.

The SAAR indicates what sales would total for the whole year if demand remained constant over 12 months, adjusting for seasonal factors. It’s an easy reference to compare how the market is performing month to month.

Before the recession, the SAAR was frequently in the 15 million to 17 million range. In January and February, the SAAR was in the 10 million range, although it had dipped even lower during the height of the recent recession.

But March will finally start getting the market back to where it should be.

“March is going to be good,” Jackson said.

The big winners, in his view:

Ford, which Jackson called “red hot.” That’s largely because of good will built up by not taking federal emergency loans.

And, Toyota, which has been boosted out of its recall crisis with some of the highest incentives ever offered by the Japanese automaker.

Customers, Jackson said, are “lined up around the block at our Toyota dealerships.”

The most significant impact of Toyota’s recall crisis, Jackson said, was the general impact on consumer psyche.

“It is an event that closes the perception gap between the domestics and the Japanese, as far as quality,” he said. “This decade-long shift of shifting from domestics to the Japanese is pretty much ending right now, and that’s significant.”

link:

http://www.freep.com/article/20100401/COL34/100401017/1331/BUSINESS01/AutoNation-CEO-predicts-Ford-is-red-hot-in-March

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