U.S. Auto Sales Weaken at Month-End; March Totals Remain Robust

Buyer Receiving Vehicle  Keys from SalespersonMarch new car and light-truck sales in the U.S. market ended on a slightly weaker note than anticipated in a forecast update by J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and strategic partner LMC Automotive. Yet, the month’s sales volume was robust and the strongest since 2007, which also saw the beginning of the Great Recession.*

Retail sales in March reached 1.148 million units, up nearly 9% from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis. There were 27 selling days in March this year vs. 28 in the year-ago month. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) averaged 12.0 million units, which was 500,000 units stronger than a year ago, but down by about 100,000 units from the pace in February 2013. Fleets edged up slightly from a year ago and accounted for nearly 21% of total light-vehicle sales—although that was slightly lower than a 22% share of the sales mix in March 2012. Continue reading ›

Small, Fuel-Efficient Vehicles on the Minds of Many Buyers in March

The Nissan Versa was the best-selling Sub-Compact in March.

Higher fuel prices helped prime sales of smaller and more fuel-efficient passenger cars, especially Sub-Compact and some Compact Conventional segment models, which boosted U.S. new-vehicle deliveries in March for nearly all automakers. The seasonally adjusted annual sales pace (SAAR) was more than 1 million units stronger than a year ago, and many automakers said March sales were their strongest since March 2008.

More than 1.4 million new vehicles were sold in the U.S. market during March, which was up 8.7% (on a selling-day-adjusted basis) from March 2011, when fewer than 1 million units were delivered, according to analysis from our Power Information Network® (PIN) and LMC Automotive.** The sales pace in March 2012 averaged 14.4 million units vs. 13 million units in March 2011.

At the segment level, Sub-Compact sales soared 36.3% and outperformed the industry, gaining nearly 1 point of share to garner 4.6% of industry sales, while Compact Conventional sales edged up only 3.1%, but still accounted for a 15.8% share of the market. Led by Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion, Midsize Conventional segment sales increased by 23.3% and the category captured 2 more points of share to end March with 18.4% of industry sales. Also noteworthy: Large Pickups, up 9.3% as a category and with the help of incentives, outperformed the industry’s 8.7% improvement as the segment garnered a 10.4% share in March 2012. Continue reading ›

US Sales Outlook for 2011 Remains Optimistic

Jeff Schuster

Despite risks from rising gasoline prices in the United States and temporary production shutdowns in Japan related to continuing problems after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, we’re holding our calendar-year 2011 total light-vehicle sales forecast at 13.0 million units. In addition, we are increasing our 2011 retail light-vehicle sales forecast by 100,000 units, to 10.6 million units compared to 10.5 million units in our previous forecast in light of the strong sales performance through the first quarter. However, we expect that fleet sales will be transferred to the retail market due to parts shortages in Japan.

In our latest monthly forecast update, retail light-vehicle sales in the US market during the first three weeks of March* continued to be stable consistent with the strength that we have seen during the first two months of the year. In fact, March retail sales volume is approaching 1.0 million units, which would be the first time since August 2009 that monthly retail sales exceeded this total. We’re expecting the retail selling pace in March to average 10.9 million units, compared to a weaker 9.3 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) in March 2010. Continue reading ›