Does Main Street know something Wall Street doesn’t? That’s a question observers are asking as they explore the minutiae of the September U.S. auto sales figures. Overall sales posted a strong upturn – reaching their highest annualized rate since last April – buoyed in part by demand for pickups and other light trucks.
That jump clearly was linked to the sharp decline in fuel prices – buyers in some parts of the country now seeing pumps set below $3 a gallon – but it may also indicate a renewed optimism among America’s working class. These days, the so-called personal use truck market has largely dried up, most pickup buyers actually using their vehicles for works.
“It’s definitely a positive sign,” said David Sullivan, auto analyst with AutoPacific, Inc. “I think the increase…says things may not be as bad as all the doom and gloom we’re hearing.”
During September, the annualized sales rate increased to 13 million, a surprising upturn considering the crash on Wall Street and steady news coverage of what could be the beginning of a double-dip recession. While overall new vehicle sales rose 10%, the figures were even bigger in the various light truck segments, which together captured 54% of the market, the biggest percentage for all of 2011.