April new-vehicle retail sales tallied 982,000 units, or a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of just over 11 million units,” according to Autodata Corporation.
This looked okay when compared with an admittedly bad April 2009, but the fact remains the auto economy remains weak, and incentives are propping up the market and pulling ahead sales.
It is too early to declare that the auto recession is over. The latest information from the AutoPacific consultancy shows the intent to purchase a new car or truck in the next two years has declined over the January to March period. So there is the first problem — demand does not appear to be strengthening.
Rising fuel prices are also complicating the outlook. The median fuel price paid in March 2010 was $2.82 per gallon, up 13 cents from January 2010 but up 86 cents per gallon from March 2009. However, interest in small cars and hybrids has declined over the last year, according to AutoPacific.
When asked what kind of vehicle respondents would select if they were to replace their primary vehicle today, 22% selected a Small Car in March 2009, but by January 2010 Small Car consideration had fallen to 12% and continued at that level in March 2010. During this time, the price of fuel went up by 44% but the interest in Small Cars went down by 44%. This is an unwelcome trend for Detroit automakers in particular who are about to introduce new small cars such as Ford Fiesta or Focus, or the Chevrolet Cruze, which will feature at least one 40 mpg model.
Detailed charts follow after the jump.