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October New Car Sales Continue at Strongest Pace in 15 Years

October New Car Sales Continue at Strongest Pace in 15 Years

By Philly Murtha, October 26, 2015

October is shaping up to be another robust sales month for the U.S. auto industry, with total new-vehicle sales rising 4.4%,* approaching 1.4 million deliveries, which would be the best sales results for the month since 2001, according to an update from J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive. Trucks were the sales leaders in the first half of the month with cars receiving extra sweeteners and incentives.

The auto industry will likely benefit from an extra weekend of sales in the month this year, which adds one more selling day to October. Based on data collected through the first 15 selling days of the month, the pace for total sales (retail and fleet) was expected to average 17.4 million units—much stronger than the selling rate a year ago.

Retail new-vehicle sales in October were projected to be the strongest since the same month in 2001 and reach 1.145 million units, up 5% on a selling-day adjusted basis in comparison to 1.052 million units in October 2014. However, retail sales were down from results in the same period of a robust September. Fleet volume was up 1% on a selling-day adjusted basis from October 2014 and was expected to account for a slightly lower 17.2% of total deliveries than a 16.5- million unit pace in October 2014.

“September was a strong month—bolstered by the Labor Day weekend—so we expected some weakness in subsequent months, but that hasn’t been the case,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “Through the first 18 days in October, retail sales were up 7% compared with the same period a year ago.”

At the segment level, truck sales continued to dominate. In October, truck sales, including pickups and SUVs, were up 15% from October 2014, while car sales were up 2.6%. Combined truck sales accounted for a hefty 58% of retail deliveries in the first half of October.

“Given the continued pressure on car segments, manufacturers are responding with greater incentive spending on cars,” Humphrey said, noting, “While incentive spending on cars has risen 16% from a year ago, truck incentive spending is up just 2% compared with October 2014.”

Since light-vehicle sales continue at a tenacious pace, according to Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, he said that his group is raising its 2015 total light-vehicle sales forecast to 17.3 million units from 17.2 million units, with a currently favorable U.S. economy and upside sales potential of 100,000 units this year.

*There are 28 selling days in October 2015 vs. 27 days in October 2014. All changes in sales percentages are selling-day adjusted.
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