When the books are closed on 2014, combined new and used auto sales are likely to reach a record $1.1 trillion in the U.S. And that figure could double by decade’s end, according to various industry studies.
In all, Americans will have purchased 54 million new and “previously owned” cars, trucks and crossovers, reports data service TrueCar. The year appears to be ending with a solid December, according to other industry analysts, with new vehicle sales for the month expected to be up around 11% compared to year-ago numbers.
On top of that, automakers have been able to boost prices at a time of strong demand during a period of sustained economic expansion and falling gas prices. So, forecast TrueCar, total revenues for the year will be up about 8.3%.
“The overall buying power in the auto market sometimes isn’t fully appreciated,” said TrueCar President John Krafcik. “To put this in perspective, new vehicle revenue alone will surpass the value of new single family homes in the U.S. nearly three times. It’s a remarkable year for the industry as both sides of the market are seeing notable growth and commanding strong pricing power.”
New car sales have exceeded industry forecasts for most of 2014, and analysts are anticipating even better numbers in 2015, with some now suggesting the market could match or exceed previous peaks in the 17 million range.
How much more prices will rise in the process remains to be seen. But according to TrueCar, the price of the average new vehicle jumped 1.9% during 2014, to $31,831. Used vehicle prices, meanwhile, have increased 5.1%, to an average $16,335.
Previously owned vehicles saw even sharper gains in recent years, in part due to a shortage of “nearly new” off-lease vehicles coming out of the industry’s worst downturn in decades. TrueCar said it expects the supply to be more normal in 2015 – with an extra 10% more vehicles available that are five years old or younger.
“This is the last year we expect used supply to be impacted by the recession’s pullback in new vehicle buying,” said Larry Dominique, head of ALG, the former Automotive Leasing Guide, which is one of the industry’s arbiters of used vehicle pricing.
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That could mean a price break for used vehicle buyers. The Black Book, which tracks auction and dealer traffic, has noted that prices have begun to fall in some previously owned segments of the market.
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Nonetheless, the trend is definitely up, according to most forecasts. At a recent year-end media briefing, Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields noted that on a worldwide basis, the auto industry is now generating $2 billion in global new vehicle sales alone, and expects that to jump to $3 trillion by just the end of the decade.
“We want to get our fair share of that,” Fields said, noting the maker’s aggressive plans to grow its product portfolio.
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While the U.S. is clearly in expansion mode, there are some trouble spots. The Russian market is in free fall, hammered by sanctions and the collapse of the ruble. Latin America is weak, and even booming China is showing signs of slowing down. But Europe, after a record downturn, finally is beginning to see new vehicle demand rise as the year comes to an end.
Nonetheless, most analysts expect the industry to be back on track and pushing to new global sales records by the end of the decade.