AP Writers' Headline and Intro Nearly Go Into Euphoria Over Nominal Year-Over-Year Increase in Feb. Vehicle Sales

March 4th, 2013 11:55 PM

Readers here can attempt to fill in the blank, and will get to the the correct answer after the jump.

In their coverage of U.S. vehicle sales in February, Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin at the Associated press, aka the Administration's Press, wrote the following in an item headlied "US AUTO SALES POWER AHEAD IN FEBRUARY": "Americans want new cars and trucks, and they're not letting higher gas prices or political dysfunction stand in their way. New car and truck sales were up ___ percent in February as rising home construction and cheap financing kept the U.S. auto recovery on track." So by how much did car sales in February 2013 exceed the level seen in February 2012?

Answer: An incredible, ginormous ... 3.7 percent. Really.

The AP pair rounded it to 4 percent, and then tempered their glee spree, likely secure in the knowledge that most subscribers won't bother with their qualifying language:

While the pace of growth is slowing, industry analysts expect more gains in the coming months, saying there's little that could derail demand for new cars.

Car buyers have already shrugged off higher Social Security taxes, which cut their take-home pay starting in January. Gas prices - which rose 36 cents to $3.78 per gallon in February - didn't change their habits, either. And they ignored the debate over automatic spending cuts that were due to take effect Friday.

Two cautionary notes for those on the euphoria train. First, much of the recovery in auto sales has been based on loans to subprime borrowers. If the economy has a hiccough, regardless of the source, writeoffs may well be on the horizon. Second, at least one company, Government/General Motors, has overstuffed dealers with what has to be seen as excessive inventories. Dealers had 743,000 vehicles on hand at the end of February. Based on GM's combined January and February sales of 419,000 units, that a ridiculous 105-day supply. In February 2010, dealers had 420,000 vehicles on hand -- and no, GM's sales have not gone up by 76% since then.

February's reality makes the headlines AP's headline writers chose look like it came straight out of the Soviet Union's old Pravda.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.