Motor vehicle sales have long been an unofficial indicator of just how healthy the economy is, showing consumer spending trends and strength.
Annualized U.S. auto sales rose to 17.7 million in February, up from 17.6 million in January. However, vehicle sales from domestic manufacturer's were slightly below the annualized pace of 14.2 million vehicles set in January.
GM vs Ford, who has the better chart?
The big three U.S. automakers had a mixed month with Fiat Chrysler (FAC) and Ford (F) both reporting increases while GM (GM) reported a dip in February sales. Meanwhile the three major Japanese automakers -- Toyota, Honda and Nissan -- all reported strong quarters. Honda reported record February sales numbers.
Read about domestic auto sales
In January, U.S. auto sales climbed at their fastest pace since January 2000, following up a 2015 in which auto sales rose to a post-recession high. The blizzards that slammed the Northeast in the early part of the year caused analysts to forecast a decline in sales during the winter months. But those estimates have been surpassed.
Nissan Motor (NSANY) reported a 10.5% increase in February sales across all brands, while the most popular Nissan brand reported a 13% increase to 120,540 units. Overall, the company sold 130,911 units in February, a record. Analysts at Edmunds.com were expecting the company to report growth of 7.5% while Kelly Blue Book expected 9% growth.
Honda Motor (HMC) also set a February record as a spike in Honda Civic sales helped the company increase sales 13% to 118,985. The company's flagship Honda Division recorded a 15% increase to 106,212 units while Acura sales increased 13% to 12,773 units sold.
"Led by the all-new Civic, Honda cars are defying industry trends, even as our light truck models are red hot this winter," said Honda senior VP and GM Jeff Conrad. "With more versions of the Civic yet to go on sale and an all-new Ridgeline on the way, Honda is primed for an incredibly strong start to the year."
Toyota Motor (TM) reported a 5.2% year over year increase in sales to 189,852 vehicles. The company's luxury Lexus brand saw a 1% rise in sales to 22,234 units while Toyota division sales rose 6% to 166,618 units.
"Light trucks continue to drive strong demand in 2016. The Toyota division had back-to-back, best-ever light truck monthly records, supported by another best-ever month in February for RAV4," said Toyota division VP and GM Bill Fay.
Read why Doug Kass is bearish on the auto industry.
Real Money Pro's Doug Kass commented on his investment strategy following the release of today's auto sales numbers today.
"I covered my shorts of Ford and General Motors at attractive prices during the market's January and February drop, but have been waiting for the stocks to rebound. Well, they did so this morning on a strong February sales report from Ford, even though the results from General Motors disappointed. So, I've re-established my shorts on F at $13 a share and GM at $30.20. I'm also putting Ford back on my Best Short Ideas list, which GM never left," Kass said.
Check back to this story as it will be updated throughout the day as auto retailers continue to release their official results.