The US light vehicle market surprised on the upside in March, coming in much stronger than analysts expected.

LMC Automotive said the March light vehicle market came in at an annual selling rate of 18m units, the highest ever for the month.

The strong result was in spite of production interruptions caused by parts shortages (semicinductors).

LMC said market volume reached 1.61m light vehicles, making it the third best March in history – with higher volumes only recorded in 2000 and 2018 respectively. Coming from a pandemic-induced low in 2020, March 2021 volume represents a 63% increase from last March, but with one additional selling day.

The strong result translates into an annualized rate of 18.0m units, the best SAAR for a month of March. The SAAR was up by 6.7m from a year ago and by 2.2m from February. The quarter ended with 3.89m units sold, up by 12% from Q1 2020.

The numbers were mostly driven by retail demand – sales totalled 1.38m units, just 984 units fewer than in December, traditionally a much stronger month.

Fleet accounted for 14% of total sales, down from 18% in January and 17% in February.

Transaction prices were the highest ever for a month of March and incentives as a percentage of MSRP were below 10% for the eighth consecutive month. Weather-related purchase delays in February, government stimulus checks and optimism of a return to normal likely drove the surge, LMC said.