Auto sales continue to slide, while light truck sales continue to grow
July 27, 2017 Tom Sanderson

Auto sales continue to slide, while light truck sales continue to grow

Annualized seasonally adjusted U.S. sales (SAAR) of domestic and foreign autos and light trucks fell to 16.41 million in June, coming in below the consensus forecast (16.6 million). Sales were 2.1% below prior year sales and were down 1.0% from prior month. Year-over-year sales for our three month moving average (graphed) were down 2.8%. Imported and domestic light truck sales performed much more strongly than car sales. Total year-to-date sales are down 2.2% over 2016, with light trucks up 4.6% and cars down 12.1%. Light trucks accounted for 63% of all unit sales year-to-date, up from 59% for the same period last year. After several years of rising sales, sales will decline slightly this year (red line on graph).

Sales set an all time record in 2016 at 17.46 million following 2015’s then-record level of 17.40 million. To put those numbers in perspective though, they narrowly eclipsed 2000 (17.35 million) and 2001 (17.12 million). In 2017, sales are expected to be down slightly, but with inventories high, production is likely to be down more significantly from 2016 levels.

Full-year sales total for 2014 were 16.5 million up 6% from 15.6 million in 2013 and right in line with the prerecession 2001-2007 average (16.7 million). The recessionary low point for auto sales occurred during the first six months of 2009, when annualized sales averaged only 9.6 million units. Auto purchases represent a large portion of the typical household budget. Our graph shows a 3-month moving average of seasonally adjusted annual rates to smooth out some of the month-to-month volatility.