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September U.S. Auto Sales Lag Year-Ago Results

September U.S. Auto Sales Lag Year-Ago Results

By Philly Murtha, September 27, 2016
Although demand for SUVs and pickups continues to flourish, total U.S. new-vehicle (retail and fleet) sales in September are anticipated to dip 0.8% to less than 1.43 million units vs. 1.44 million unit sales in the same month of 2015, based on a mid-month sales update from J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive.

Despite a record level of incentive spending, Labor Day weekend sales, which are traditionally robust, were down 1% from last year, based on sales data collected during the first two weeks of September. The month’s retail deliveries are set to reach 1.185 million units, off 1.4% from last September’s 1.2 million. Fleet sales are expected to rise 2.1% to 243,600 units and make up 17% of the mix.

Demand for light trucks is robust; deliveries of pickups and SUVs account for nearly a 61% share of new-vehicle retail sales so far in September, and the percentage may match the record set in July of this year. Pickups alone comprised 15.9% of sales this month, according to the update.

The mid-month update also reveals that the average new-vehicle (retail) transaction price in September is $30,665—a record for the month. Incentive spending also is the highest for any September, averaging $3,923, surpassing the previous high of $3,753 in December 2008.

Although new-car sales have fallen slightly, they are still at near-record levels, and transaction prices are at all-time highs, according to Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president and general manager of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power.

Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, added: “The U.S. automotive market continues to show signs of little growth, yet in our opinion the numbers do not reflect a significant weakness or risk. The expectation remains for steady volume levels at the topline, despite a pullback in the retail market and increased monthly performance volatility. However, group and brand performance is beginning to diverge as competitive pressure is at an all-time high.”
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