Auto industry sees best February in five years: Bigresearch

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Bigresearch's February Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey shows that 12.1 percent of consumers said they are planning on buying a new car or truck in the next six months.

This is up from last February when 11.8 percent said they were considering a similar purchase. In the previous four years, the percentage of consumers planning automotive purchases in February has been under 12 percent. In 2002, 15.9 percent of consumers indicated interest.

Gary Drenik, CEO of Bigresearch, Columbus, OH, said in a statement that 2002 was a unique year for the auto industry because of sales incentives and zero percent financing offers. He attributed the boost in this year's consumer confidence in part to gas prices becoming more moderate.

And consumer interest in hybrids is decreasing. Just less than 5 percent indicated interest in the car this year, whereas 9.2 percent were interested in February 2006. Interest in sport utility vehicles, trucks and minivans is also low at 33 percent, 18.8 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively. More than 54 percent of consumers are considering a car over the other options.

A majority (66.1 percent) of consumers plan to spend between $20,000 and $40,000 on a new car, the Bigresearch survey found.

Included in the report is a consumer equity index for all major brands. It is calculated by subtracting the average percentage of those considering a brand first choice or second choice from the current percentage of ownership of the same brand.

Ford increased its consumer equity index to the positive side of the ledger this February to 0.18. This is the first time since April 2006 - when it had an index of 1.52 - that Ford has been positive.

The brands with the highest consumer equity share include Toyota, Honda, Kia, Audi, Chrysler/Plymouth, Cadillac and Volkswagen. Brands that have negative equity shares include Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Lincoln, Dodge, Buick and Chevrolet.

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