Even with the long strike by the United Auto Workers cutting off delivery of new vehicles to General Motors dealers nationwide, overall sales of new vehicles have remained on a steady course during October, analysts report in monthly sales forecasts.
Cox Automotive is predicting that during October, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, will reach 1.37 million units, up about 2,000 units or 0.2% compared with October 2018. When compared to last month, sales are expected to rise nearly 87,000 units or 6.8%.
The SAAR in October 2019 is estimated to be 16.9 million, down slightly from last month’s 17.2 million level and down from last year’s 17.5 million-unit pace. This October has 27 selling days, one more than last October, and four more than last month, according to Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive.
The increase in selling days is lowering the SAAR estimates even though overall sales volume is expected to rise, Chesbrough added.
“After an extremely volatile light vehicle market during the first half of the year, where the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) had months with nearly 1-million-unit swings, the market has settled into a relatively stable pace of nearly 17 million since May,” he said.
However, retail sales have been in decline in 2019, as they were in 2018, and this trend is expected to continue in October. Affordability issues, a result of higher interest rates and higher vehicle prices, are leaving many potential new-vehicle buyers out of the market.
Fleet activity, which has been very strong in 2019, as it was in 2018, is the key unknown for October’s sales performance. Worsening economic news and aggressive fleet activity earlier in the year suggests some pullback should be expected, Chesbrough said.
Eric Lyman, chief analyst at TrueCar/ALG, said, “The UAW strike has created a tricky sales landscape for GM. Incentives are down versus last month but are still elevated as the automaker competes for lucrative full-size pickup share. With the strike just ended, GM isn’t out of the woods yet as dealers must work with aging inventory ahead of ramped up production to refresh their showrooms going into the busy end of year selling season.”
The analysis from Cox noted that GM’s inventory was higher than the industry average going into the production shutdown period. And, availability issues seemed minimal based on dealer and customer comments.
So, retail sales are unlikely to see a significant impact, although one would expect that some buyers around the country would be unwilling to cross picket lines. The bigger threat is fleet activity, which could drop dramatically. Any order fulfillment due during the strike period was likely delayed, thus fleet delivery volume is expected to be lower, Chesbrough said.
ALG expects U.S. retail deliveries of new cars and light trucks to be 1,136,920 units, a decrease of 4.3% from a year ago when adjusted for selling day
Used vehicle sales are expected to reach 3.4 million units, up 3.7% from a year ago and up 0.2% from September 2019, according to ALG. In addition, Mercedes-Benz is expected to have a sales edge over BMW of close to 5,000 total unit sales for October as the race for the luxury sales leader ramps up moving toward the end.
Tesla’s sales momentum continues to hold up after last summer’s Model 3 ramp up and the automaker is expected to be up 18.4% in total units year-over-year. For the month of October, GM and Nissan are forecast to be down 11.4% and 10.6% respectively in total unit sales compared to a year ago.
The most notable year-over-year drop in incentive spend are expected from Kia, Hyundai, and Nissan, while FCA, GM, and Hondaare expected to have double-digit incentive increases, according to TrueCar/ALG.