The total number of new vehicle sales is expected to drop again this month as the U.S. auto industry remains locked into the holding pattern that has prevailed for the past half year as sales fall short of last year’s record monthly results.
The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of total sales is projected at 17.7 million units in October 2016, down from 18.1 million units a year ago, according to J.D. Power & Associates and LMC Automotive.
The J.D. Power/LMC monthly forecast indicates the annualized rate SAAR for retail sales in October 2016 is projected to reach 14.3 million units, down from 14.8 million units in October 2015, while fleet sales are expected to be 12,000 units lower than a year ago at 247,800 in October. Fleet volume is expected to account for 18.4% of total light-vehicle sales.
“The decline in retail sales this month, compared with October 2015, is relatively modest, but the fact that this will be the sixth monthly decline in 2016 puts the industry in territory not seen since before the recession,” observed John Humphrey, J.D. Power senior vice president.
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“We do not foresee a large pullback in sales in the near term, but the fact that retail sales are beginning to contract, despite high incentives and extremely low interest rates and gas prices, is a clear indicator that this cycle has reached its peak,” he added.
Retail sales are projected to reach 1,099,200 units in October, the sixth time in the past eight months that sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis. Total new-vehicle sales are projected to fall 0.2% in October to 1,347,000, according to the J.D. Power/LMC forecast.
The average new-vehicle retail transaction price thus far in October is $31,383, a record for the month surpassing the previous high of $30,921 set in October 2015. Incentive spending thus far in October is $3,726 per unit, below the record $3,921 set in September, but 12% above the $3,332 of October 2015, the forecast said.
The J.D. Power/LMC forecast also predicted that trucks will account for 62.2% of new-vehicle retail sales so far in October, poised to set a record for any month. The current record is 61.4% set in September.
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Overall, the model-year transition is slower in 2016 than it was a year ago, with 37% of retail sales thus far in October being 2017 model-year vehicles. During the same period in October 2016, 40% of sales were 2016 model-year cars and light trucks.
Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, said it also appears that new car sales this year will fall short of last year’s all-time record.
“Although automotive sales are expected to remain near the all-time high, they are still expected to contract slightly this year, as well as in 2017,” Schuster said.
Schuster added that during the same period, nearly 30% of all models in the market will be new entries or completely redesigned, creating challenging conditions for vehicle manufacturers and automotive suppliers that will test the discipline of the industry for the first time since 2009.
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So far, automakers are adjusting production levels to avoid a build up in inventory, Schuster noted.