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Thanksgiving Discounts Invigorate November U.S. Auto Sales

Thanksgiving Discounts Invigorate November U.S. Auto Sales

By Philly Murtha, November 29, 2017

Thanksgiving weekend deals and demand for SUVs and pickups revitalized U.S. auto sales in November. However, new-vehicle sales this month may still slip a fraction from last year’s November totals. J.D. Power and auto forecasting partner LMC Automotive expect total deliveries to dip by some 3,200 units from November last year.

According to a mid-month forecast update, data collected through the first 16 days of November indicate that total new car and light-truck (retail and fleet) deliveries will slip 0.2% to 1.374 million units vs. 1.377 million unit sales in November 2016. Retail deliveries are set to be off just 0.1% from last November to 1.12 million units, while fleet sales to rental car agencies will dip 0.6%, but account for 19% of the total mix—flat with last year. Both months in both years have 25 selling days.

Auto Sales

It’s notable that the average incentive spend per unit in November is $4,065, higher than in November 2016. The incentive spend on cars already is up $100 from a year ago. So far this month, incentives account for 10.8% of a new-vehicle’s MSRP. In addition, the average new-vehicle transaction price to date this month sets a November record—at $32,344.

Auto dealers are offering additional incentives to clear out record inventories of prior model-year vehicles, according to Thomas King, senior vice president of J.D. Power’s Data and Analytics Division. He points out that new-model-year vehicles account for only 44% of month-to-date sales. Extra Thanksgiving weekend discounts will push incentive spend to a new high, he said, adding, “Last year, retail sales after Thanksgiving accounted for 32% of November totals and incentive spending rose by 11%.”

Jeff Schuster, LMC Automotive senior vice president of forecasting, concurs with King and said that higher incentive levels and timed fleet sales have kept the sales rate in the second half of 2017 ahead of “expected natural demand.” He also suggests that the risk ahead for next year is more balanced, although demand is expected to ease for a second consecutive year. LMC’s forecast for total sales this year is 17.2 million units, down 2.1% from 2016.

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