New vehicle sales climbing

Jan. 1, 2020
Auto dealerships continued to accelerate over the summer, increasing the new vehicle fleets and providing a preview of the vehicle mix that dealerships and aftermarket service companies will see over the next several years

Auto dealerships continued to accelerate over the summer, increasing the new vehicle fleets and providing a preview of the vehicle mix that dealerships and aftermarket service companies will see over the next several years.

According to data from Autodata Corp., the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for June was 14.1 million, up 22 percent from the 11.6 million sold in June of 2011, and much closer to the pre-crash numbers in 2007 (which were near 16.1 million vehicles).

The overall auto industry has also seen its best first half of the year since 2008, and J.D. Power and Associates was predicting that July would see the second strongest year-over-year growth during the past 12 months. Power puts the July SAAR at 11.5 million units, down from June but on track with other projections for 2012.

"Retail sales got off to a fast start in July, and while they've slowed down a bit as the month has progressed, through the first 16 selling days, they're still up 15.1 percent, compared to July 2011," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power. "The positive growth has continued to build, as July is looking strong across most vehicle segments, as well as for many of the major manufacturers."

(Over the reporting period, the highest SAAR level reached in the past 12 months occurred in February of this year, when sales reached 15.10 million.)

J.D. Power says that all major vehicle segments are expected to show year-over-year sales gains in July, with the exception of the mid CUV segment. The sub-compact conventional, mid conventional and compact conventional segments are expected to show increases of 28 percent or more.

This is despite the fact that both GM and Ford sale deliveries fall by 6.4 percent and 3.8 percent (spurred by significant declines in fleet demand), respectively. Chrysler, on the other hand, reported a 13 percent gain in July.

Almost all of the major OEMS saw significant sales increases in June, however, according to Autodata's numbers. GM had a nearly 16 percent increase, fueled by sales of the Malibu, Buick LaCrosse, and even the Chevy Volt.

Ford saw a 7 percent increase in June, while Chrysler had its best June in five years, posting a 20 percent increase. Toyota saw a whopping 60 percent rise in sales compared to the previous June, thanks largely to the tremendous drop in sales caused by the Japanese tsunami and flooding in Thailand. Honda was up nearly 49 percent; Nissan, 28.2 percent; and Volkswagen, 34.2 percent. Subaru of America also saw a 40 percent increase.

Those improvements are also reflected in public dealership sales figures. Penske Automotive posted a second-quarter earnings increase of 24 percent for new vehicles on double-digit revenue growth. Used sales also increased by 13 percent. Notably, Penske posted an 8.6 percent gain in service and parts for Q2 as well. AutoNation also posted a 26 percent increase in revenue in the second quarter, with a service and parts gain of five percent.

Commercial Vehicle Sales Decline
Not all the indicators are necessarily good, though. In July, Polk reported that the global commercial vehicle market had declined seven percent in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 2011.

China and India are still the two largest markets for heavy commercial vehicles, accounting for nearly 58 percent of the market. But registrations in China decreased 18.2 percent (the Indian market grew 5.1 percent, comparatively).

For markets with more than 10,000 new retail registrations during the first quarter, the largest year-over-year increases were in Canada, Japan, the UK and the U.S., while South Korea and Germany declined.

The forecasts looking forward for light vehicles are still promising, which means more in-warranty vehicles on the road for the next 18 to 24 months, and a shifting post-warranty vehicle mix over the next several years, with fewer trucks (and more Chryslers) on the road.

Part of the increase in sales, however, is coming because of the advanced age of vehicles on the road (averaging above 11 years), and the availability of financing (which many drivers had trouble getting during the worst of the recession). As these aged vehicles are retired from the fleet and more customers go under warranty, that could eat into sales at aftermarket repair facilities, which are already seeing increased competition from dealers on the post-warranty side.

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