April 2013 Automotive Industry Brief

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On the "plus" side:

  • Total used vehicle sales (including private party transactions) rose less than 1 percent in April, while used vehicle retail sales by dealers fell by 1 percent. Still, sales for the first four months of 2013 were up 5 percent in total, and 7 percent for dealer sales. That's a noteworthy achievement in the face of otherwise tepid consumer spending.
  • Results for the seven publicly traded dealership groups show that used unit retail sales rose 6.5 percent on a same-store basis in the first quarter, marking the 15th consecutive quarterly increase.

On the "other" side:

  • Even as same-store used vehicle sales volumes continued to rise, margins on those sales continued to fall. On a sales-weighted basis, the first quarter of the year marked the 13th consecutive quarter that used vehicle retail gross margins were lower than their year-ago level.
  • The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index declined 1 percent in April, bringing the Index to a reading of 119.2, which was 5.5 percent lower than a year ago. Although April marked the fourth straight monthly decline in wholesale used vehicle values, the movement has been neither alarming nor disruptive to the market. Indeed, the easing was long anticipated and probably mitigates some of the decline that many expected in the second half of the year. 

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