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12 January 2018, 09:45 | Lucia Cruz
Yearly Auto Sales Off Slightly in 2017
Allen Zimney and his girlfriend Leila Alvarez with the help of Star Ford salesman Greg Bowles shop for a Ford Edge at the Star Ford dealership on March 23, 2012 in Glendale, California.
Investors were pleased GM had cut its inventory of unsold vehicles - a concern for the industry earlier in 2017 - at the end of December to 63 days supply unsold vehicles, beating its target of about 70 days supply.
Research firm Autodata says 17.2 million vehicles were sold a year ago. It was their first year-over-year decline since 2009, ending an unprecedented seven-year expansion.
Canada sold 302,826 vehicles in 2017, up 13.3 percent over the previous year, the company said, contrasting with sales in the much bigger USA market where the Cadillac maker recorded a fall of 1.3 percent. Volkswagen brand sales rose 5 percent. According to Autodata Corp, which tracks market sales, the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of USA vehicle and light truck sales in December dropped to 17.9 million units from 18.2 million in December 2016.
"In 2017, we had solid GDP growth and good news on employment, wages and consumer sentiment, which helped deliver very strong retail sales for the auto industry", G.M. chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem said.
Analysts think sales will fall a bit further this year.
Analysts say many consumers had already replaced their vehicles when the economy picked up. For the full year, FCA sales dropped by 8% with Jeep falling 11% in 2017.
The growing popularity of leasing will also have a big impact on 2018 sales. Four million vehicles were leased in 2015, according to Edmunds.com, and many of those customers will be trading in their vehicles for new ones. They will likely stimulate demand, particularly for commercial trucks and vans.
Ford's light vehicle deliveries rose 1.3% last month as its F-Series pickup line had its best year since 2005.
The average price of the best-selling F-Series came in at US$47,800, a new record, marking an "unbelievable year" for the model, said Ford vice-president Mark LaNeve. Low gas prices and other factors had buyers ditching cars for SUVs at a fast clip; sales of the Nissan Rogue SUV jumped 22 percent to more than 400,000.
Ford shares are trading in the green Wednesday, as are GM shares, as both auto makers announced upbeat sales in the final month of 2017. Toyota Prius hybrid sales plummeted 20.5 percent. Fiat brand sales fell 33 percent, while Ram slipped 3 percent, but still sold 44,907 pickup trucks.
Industry sales in 2018 will probably drop again thanks in part to higher interest rates and greater availability of used sport utility vehicles. At the same time, automakers piled on deals in order to juice sales and hang on to their market share.
- DECEMBER DIP: No one was expecting US auto sales to top December 2016, which was the best single month in 15 years.
GM also published its December sales figures Wednesday, which showed total sales were 2% up on the same month in 2016. But most other automakers saw declines. Fiesta sales fell by 3% and Fusion sales fell 8.8% year over year.
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