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Auto Sales Rebound in March to Highest Levels for the Month since 2005

Auto Sales Rebound in March to Highest Levels for the Month since 2005

By Jeff Youngs, March 20, 2015

U.S. total new-vehicle sales rebounded in March 2015, following a slow February, and are expected to reach their highest levels for March in a decade, according to a monthly sales forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. Total new light-vehicle sales in March 2015 are projected to reach 1,539,600 units--an increase of 4% on a selling-day adjusted basis (March 2015 has one fewer selling day than March 2014)--and their highest levels for the month since March 2005.

New-vehicle retail sales in March 2015 are projected to reach 1,234,700 units, also up 4% from March 2014.

The retail seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate (SAAR) in March is projected at 13.6 million units--449,000 units stronger than in March 2014 and the highest retail SAAR for the month since 2002.

"Inclement weather in February caused many consumers to delay their new-vehicle purchase until March," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. "Other key industry metrics continue to demonstrate the industry's underlying strength. The average new-vehicle transaction price so far in March is $30,530, the highest level ever for the month of March."

Strong sales and high transaction prices combined in March 2015 to set a new record for that month for consumer spending on new vehicles--approximately $37.7 billion, according to the Power Information Network (PIN) from J.D. Power.

Fleet volume in March is projected to hit 304,900 units, accounting for 20% of total sales. Fleet volume is expected to fall as the year progresses.

LMC Automotive is holding to its 2015 U.S. forecast of 14.0 million units for retail sales and 17.0 million for total light-vehicle sales, both an increase of 3% over 2014.

"Autos didn't escape a weather-driven hit to the vigorous selling rate trend in February, but upward performance returns in March and is expected to continue throughout the year," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. "The U.S. continues to be one of the brighter spots in the global vehicle sales picture in 2015 with stable volume growth."

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