New vehicle sales numbers for August are mixed, analysts agree, with unit sales increasing thanks to an extra day of sales but industry’s SAAR or seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales continuing to drop.
Charles Chesbrough, senior economist with Cox Automotive, suggests a trend may be emerging: “Unfortunately, the third time is not a charm here. Compared to May 2019, which had the highest SAAR this year, August is forecast to be the third month in a row with a slowing sales pace. The market may finally be succumbing to toughening buying conditions and satiated vehicle demand.”
Although the pace is likely to decline, sales volume in August is forecast to be higher than last year. August 2019 has 28 selling days, one more than last August, which causes the SAAR to fall even though sales volume rises, Chesbrough said.
In addition, Labor Day weekend, an important selling period, falls within the August reporting period this year and not September as it did last year. With the shift, comparing annual differences will be difficult. A better comparison will be combined August and September sales this year versus last year, he added.
The SAAR in August 2019 is forecast to be 16.5 million, down from last month’s 16.8 million level and down from last year’s pace 16.9 million units. The additional sales days in August 2019 are contributing to the relatively weak SAAR forecast, given an increase in sales volume.
The experts at Edmunds, the car shopping site, predicted that 1,599,264 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in August for an estimated SAAR of 16.6 million. This reflects a 14.3% increase in sales from July 2019, and a 7% increase from August 2018.
“New vehicle sales in August look a little healthier than usual thanks to Labor Day weekend falling earlier this year,” said Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds’ senior manager of insights.
“Market conditions are looking slightly more favorable than earlier this year thanks to a minor dip in interest rates, but we don’t expect that to cause a major turnaround. August really just stole sales that are normally attributed to September,” he added.
TrueCar Inc.’s and analytics subsidiary, ALG, projects total new vehicle sales will reach 1,602,276 units in August, up 4.2% from a year ago when adjusted for the same number of selling days. This month’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for total light vehicle sales is an estimated 16.6 million units, according to ALG.
“Despite heavy chatter and speculation about the trade war and the future of the economy that’s stoking uncertainty, the fundamentals including employment and wages are performing well and having a positive impact on auto sales,” said Oliver Strauss, chief economist for ALG, a subsidiary of TrueCar.
ALG also noted that BMW stood out in August for sales growth, expected to be up 16.8% on total vehicle sales and 18.1% on retail sales year-over-year. Trends on the TrueCar platform indicate strong performance from their SUVs including the all-new X7, which has quickly risen to be the number two best-selling model in the premium full-size utility segment since launching earlier this year.
Tesla’s sales ascent is expected to continue, up 12.5% year-over-year, however growth softens compared to previous months as Model 3 sales ramped up significantly starting in August 2018, according to ALG.
Meanwhile, average incentive spend should reach $3,825, up 1.2%, or $45 dollars year-over-year, and down 2.2% or $85 from July 2019. The most notable declines in incentive spend are expected from Kia, down 12.7%, Hyundai, down 9% and Ford, down 6.9%.
Meanwhile Honda is expected to raise incentives by 15.8%, FCA, up 9%, and GM, up 8.8%. Average transaction prices (ATP) should continue to rise, up 2.1% or $702 year-over-year.
Incentives as a percentage of average transaction price are expected to be 11.2%, down slightly at 0.9% from a year ago and down 1.9% from July 2019.
Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW all stood out this month in ALG’s Retail Health Index (RHI) brand strength metric. This was largely driven by new, redesigned, or strong performing SUV product including the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Volkswagen’s Atlas and Tiguan, Mercedes’ GLE and BMW’s all-new X7.