Labor Day Sales Events Boost August U.S. Light-Vehicle Delivery Totals

Buyer and Dealership ManagerU.S. new light-vehicle sales in August were more robust than anticipated, mainly due to a heady retail sales finish over the Labor Day weekend. Retail sales even outperformed the accurate monthly forecast from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and strategic partner LMC Automotive, which already had projected one of the strongest sales months in six years.

There was an extra boost from holiday sales, especially on August 31 since Labor Day weekend was counted in August’s sales total as the month ended on a weekend. J.D. Power experts say they are not sure yet how much August sales will pull forward from September results. Total consumer spending on new vehicles in August was the highest on record—reaching $38.5 billion,—mainly due to strong transaction prices and higher sales, according to J.D. Power analysis.

Retail sales in August climbed 17.7% above retail totals in the same month of 2012. The final week of August sales totals (August 26 – Sept. 3) captured nearly 35% of the month’s retail sales volume, according to Dave Cutting, senior manager of North American Forecasting at LMC Automotive. Retail deliveries totaled 1.34 million units and the seasonally adjusted selling pace (SAAR) of 13.8 million was the highest since 2006.

Strong Retail Sales Pace Offsets Lower Fleet Deliveries

The pace of retail sales offset a decline on the fleet side. Fleet sales slumped by 16% from the same period in 2012 on a selling-day adjusted basis. Fleet deliveries accounted for only 11% of total sales—the lowest fleet share for any month since 2009 when the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” or CARS scrappage program was in full gear.

Total new-vehicle sales (retail and fleet) finished the month at 1.5 million units, which was up 12.7% from a year ago. This nearly matched the earlier forecast update by PIN and LMC Automotive. This selling pace translated to a SAAR of 16.1 million units and was the first time since late 2007 that the total SAAR crossed the 16.0M threshold.

Through the first eight months of 2013, U.S. total auto sales were up more than 9% from the same January-August period a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis. Retail deliveries year to date were up more than 12%, while fleet deliveries dipped by nearly 3% from the same eight months in 2012.

Compact Crossovers are Among Most Popular Segments

2013 Honda CR-V Compact CrossoverSegment sales performance was strong across all size categories, with the Compact Crossover (CUV) segment outpacing all others. Sales for the segment were up 31.4%. Brands such as Subaru, Honda and Buick paved the way with new product launches.

Other segments with stellar increases from a year ago included: Midsize Utility (up 26.2%), Sub-Compact Conventional (up 19.0%), Compact Conventional (up 14.4%), and Large Pickup (up 14.3%).

Among segments posting declines in August, the Midsize Van segment sold 9.8% fewer units than in the same month of 2012, although the Dodge Caravan, which led the category for the month, posted an increase from a year ago. One of the leaders—the Honda Odyssey—may have posted lower sales because of a model changeover.

GM Remains Best-Selling Maker Followed by Toyota Group and Ford Motor

General Motors continued to be the total sales volume leader in the U.S. market during August with an 18.4% industry share, followed by Toyota Group (15.4% share) and Ford Motor Co. (14.5% share).

Honda Group (11.1% share) and Fiat-Chrysler Group (11% share) were close in terms of share, ranking fourth and fifth, respectively. After the top five, Nissan (8% share) and Hyundai (7.9% share) Groups also were comparatively close in unit sales for the month.

Leasing, Transaction Prices Up

PIN data supported a few continuing trends. The new-vehicle negotiated price in August was up 2.2% from a year ago and slightly up from July’s deal price. In addition, the average customer cash rebate amount rose 12.7% from a year ago, but was down slightly from July.

Leasing continues to be popular and PIN retail sales lease penetration was up 3.2 percentage points from a year ago. The 72-month loan term continued to hold as it has throughout 2013. In addition, the average number of days that a new vehicle remained on a lot before being sold matched July’s 59 days. The average retail turn rate was eight days longer than in August 2012.  Philly Murtha, editor at J.D. Power 



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