U.S. buy­ers go big for SUVs, pick­ups in Fe­bru­ary

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS -

Lured by Pres­i­dents Day deals, U.S. buy­ers snapped up pick­ups and SUVs in Fe­bru­ary, bright­en­ing what is usu­ally a lack­lus­ter month for the auto in­dus­try.

Over­all sales of new ve­hi­cles fell 1 per­cent from last Fe­bru­ary to 1.3 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data Corp. But au­tomak­ers made up the dif­fer­ence with strong sales of more prof­itable SUV and trucks. Sales of the Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado pickup jumped 17 per­cent to more than 50,500 trucks. Ford sold nearly 69,000 SUVs — a Fe­bru­ary record. Nis­san said sales of its Rogue SUV were up 54 per­cent.

Gen­eral Mo­tors and Nis­san both saw 4 per­cent sales gains over last Fe­bru­ary. Volk­swa­gen’s sales were up 13 per­cent and Honda’s sales were up 2 per­cent.

But those gains were off­set by de­clines at other au­tomak­ers. Fiat Chrysler’s sales fell 10 per­cent, hurt by de­clin­ing sales of Jeeps. Toy­ota’s sales dropped 7 per­cent. Ford’s sales fell 4 per­cent. Hyundai’s sales were flat.

Good deals reeled in buy­ers. Ford was of­fer­ing $15,000 off on a 2016 Fo­cus elec­tric, while GM was of­fer­ing zero-per­cent fi­nanc­ing and up to $10,000 off cer­tain GMC Sierra and Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado pick­ups, ac­cord­ing to car shop­ping site Au­to­trader.com. mostly live and work. The com­pany em­ploys roughly 1,500 peo­ple in the Cen­tral Texas area.

A lot is rid­ing on how well AMD’s Zen-based prod­ucts sell. Af­ter re­leas­ing Ryzen this month, AMD plans to roll out more Zen-based chips to be used in graph­ics pro­ces­sors and servers later this year.

The Ryzen com­puter pro­ces­sors AMD re­leases on Thurs­day are aimed at the higher-end of the PC mar­ket. These chips are ideal for gam­ing or video edit­ing, not for writ­ing in Mi­crosoft Word or surf­ing the In­ter­net.

In­dus­try an­a­lyst Pa­trick Moor­head said the Ryzen pro­ces­sors of­fer im­proved per­for­mance from AMD’s last it­er­a­tion of com­puter pro­ces­sors. That means bet­ter vi­su­als and the abil­ity to jug­gle mul­ti­ple open tabs and pro­grams at once, which makes it ideal for video or photo editors.

“And it’s low-power as well,” he said. That means AMD’s high-end com­puter pro­ces­sors are sim­i­lar, in terms of per­for­mance, to In­tel’s for the first time in a decade, said Moor­head, who runs Austin-based Moor In­sights & Strat­egy.

This is a big deal for AMD be­cause In­tel dom­i­nates the com­puter pro­cess­ing mar­ket.

Although PC sales have been on the de­cline, AMD is con­cen­trat­ing ini­tially on the higher end of the mar­ket be­cause of its high profit mar­gins and be­cause it is “AMD’s sweet spot his­tor­i­cally,” Moor­head said.

“The rea­son why peo­ple are so ex­cited is be­cause it’s lit­er­ally been a one-horse race for years in the high-end desk­top space,” Moor­head said. “There re­ally wasn’t any choice out there.”

In­vestors will get their first glimpse into how much Ryzen boosted AMD’s bot­tom line when the com­pany re­ports its first quar­ter fi­nan­cial re­sults.

In large part due to an­tic­i­pa­tion over Zen, AMD’s stock has more than quadru­pled in price since Jan­uary 2016.

RALPH BARRERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN 2016

A gamer uti­lizes the vir­tual re­al­ity com­po­nent of the Ryzen desk­top com­puter at AMD’s launch event at the Fair Mar­ket in De­cem­ber. The new chips are ideal for gam­ing or video edit­ing.

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