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US New Vehicle Sales Soar to Near-Record Levels

Makers still blowing trucks and utes out dealership doors.

by on May.03, 2016

Ford's SUV sales in April were red hot with the Explorer up 22% for the month.

Any concerns about a possible weakening for new vehicle sales this year have been set aside by strong demand for trucks and utility vehicles at near record levels last month.

Hungry buyers helped boost sales and transaction prices in April with Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Audi all posting sales increases for the month. Unsurprisingly, Volkswagen sales continued to slide, but General Motors’ drop overall sales was a surprise.

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Ford reported its sales increased 4% versus a year ago and retail sales also grew 3%, driving the company’s best April retail results since 2006. 

Last month’s sales of Ford sport utilities were the best April in company history with Explorer increasing by 22%. Ford F-150 boosted F-Series sales jumped 13%, marking the second month in a row F-Series surpassed 70,000 unit sales and total Ford van sales reached 23,221 – the company’s best April van results in 38 years. Transit sales alone were up by 32%.

“We saw strong consumer demand in April, especially for pickups,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “F-Series has moved past the quarter million sales mark year to date – the strongest start for F-Series in a decade, while Ford brand SUVs are having their best year ever.”

Ford brand average transaction pricing for the full line-up is up $1,500 compared to a year ago and $700 higher versus the industry average increase, thanks to a strong mix of high-end series trucks and SUVs.

Fiat Chrysler enjoyed a 6% increase in sales in April, due in large measure to improved sales of its Ram and Jeep brand line-ups.

Fiat Chrysler reported a 6% sales increase compared with sales in April 2015 for the group’s best April sales result in 11 years. The Jeep and Ram Truck brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in April compared with the same month a year ago. The Jeep brand’s 17% increase was the largest sales gain of any FCA US brand during the month.

“Consumer preference for SUVs and pickup trucks continued unabated in April and helped to propel us to our strongest April sales in 11 years,” said Reid Bigland, senior vice president – Sales, FCA – North America. FCA US finished the month of April with an 84-day supply of inventory and U.S. industry sales figures for April are internally projected at an estimated 17.9 million units on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, he noted.

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General Motors overall sales dropped by 3.5% as the company continued to cut back on deliveries of new vehicles to rental fleets.

“GM’s retail growth over the last 12 months has outpaced the industry by a wide margin because our redesigned large pickups and SUVs are hits, we made smart investments in new segments like small crossovers and midsize pickups, and our momentum in the car business is accelerating with each new model introduction,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations. “GM bucked the industry trend with flat year-over incentives, we are managing with lean inventories and our Commercial and Government fleet business is growing.

Meanwhile, Toyota reported that April 2016 sales increased 5% on a volume basis and 1.1% on a daily sales rate basis.

“The industry had its strongest April in more than 10 years, possibly a best-ever month.” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “Toyota division enjoyed its sixth consecutive month of best-ever light truck sales, helped by record Highlander, RAV4 and 4Runner sales.”

While Toyota’s results were positive, its luxury unit, Lexus, posted sales of 24,882 units, down 3.8%.

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Nissan also had a strong month. Sales of Nissan brand vehicles increased by 13.5% and sales of Infiniti brand vehicles increase by 4.5%

Volkswagen, battered by the diesel emissions scandal, saw its sales drop by nearly 10%. Audi, on the other hand, posted its 64th consecutive monthly sales increase with 5.8% improvement in total sales.

Analysts noted the strong sales have also brought increases in revenue and transaction prices.

The estimated average transaction price or ATP for light vehicles in the United States was $33,865 in April. The prices of new have increased by $620, or 1.9%, from April 2015, while increasing $74 (up 0.2%) from last month.

“April 2016 continues to show steady improvement in average transaction prices for nearly all manufacturers, with particularly strong numbers for the Detroit automakers,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

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“Even though gas prices rose slightly in April, truck segments saw the largest year-over-year increases, with midsize trucks climbing nearly 7% on average. This segment is on the rise, as consumers who don’t need a full-size truck are finding they can still get many amenities and plenty of utility from the new mid-size trucks now available.”

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