With car sales heading for a big “Friday Finish,” November’s numbers look as if they could shatter any number of records, according to analysts.
TrueCar, Inc. projects total new vehicle sales, including fleet deliveries, will reach 1.352 million units in November, a 3.9 % increase from a year ago and the highest ever for the month.
The expected growth will push the seasonally adjusted annualized rate or SAAR for total light vehicle sales to 18.6 million units, the strongest pace of any month so far this year and up from a 17.1 million-unit SAAR year ago. Solid consumer demand coupled with Black Friday campaigns may boost retail sales by 3% to 1,157,800 units.
“This continues to be a standout year for the industry, with November sales likely setting a monthly record,” said Eric Lyman, TrueCar’s vice president of industry insights. “Consumers are excited about Black Friday promotions and these month-long events appear to be resonating with car buyers. Brands that advertised early, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Jeep and Ram, are expected to outperform the industry.
Not even a decade ago, November was a notoriously slow sales month, and it typically ranked as the third-worst month for sales in the calendar year. But in recent years, car dealers have joined other retailers to embrace Black Friday as a big sales driver.
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“Last year, Thanksgiving weekend accounted for twice as many sales as any other weekend in November. We expect to see both trends continue this year,” Lyman said.
Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds, also noted that not even a decade ago, November was a notoriously slow sales month, but since 2010, November has delivered one of the three best SAARs in each year.
“Last year, Thanksgiving weekend accounted for twice as many sales as any other weekend in November. We expect to see both trends continue this year,” Caldwell said.
John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power, said the strength of the industry continues to be observed through strong sales volume and high transaction prices.
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“So far in the month, the average transaction price of $31,498 is the highest level ever for any November and the second highest for any month.” The record high of $31,519 was set in December 2014.
Humphrey noted to manage these higher transaction prices, customers are increasingly opting for leases and long-term loans with term lengths of 72 months and longer. The industry is on track to set new records for both types of sales for the full year 2015.
On a calendar year-to-date basis through the first two weeks of November, lease penetration has reached 27.7%, which is an increase of 2 percentage points from the full year 2014. Long-term loan penetration has increased 2.2 percentage points to 34.4% over the same time period, he added.
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“The good news for the auto industry is that sales growth, both in terms of total units and price-per-vehicle, is continuing to show strength as we turn the corner to 2016, but there are some warning signs in this data,” said Humphrey. “Lease and long-term loan penetration are at all-time highs and could increase even more as a way to offset higher interest rates in the months to come.”