Oct. 4, 2012 – September was a banner month for vehicle sales, with the strongest pace on record since 2008 and signs of further improvement ahead.
Research firm AutoData Corp. reported Tuesday that vehicle sales in September jumped from 14.5 million units to 14.9 million units, annualized. NAFCU Chief Economist David Carrier said the better-than-expected increase provides more evidence that “many drivers are being lured off the sidelines by record-low interest rates.”
Car sales increased from 7.4 million units to 7.7 million units, while sales of light trucks increased from 7.1 million units to 7.3 million units. “Car sales were boosted once again by rising gas prices, which compelled many households to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles in September,” Carrier observed. “Light truck sales made headway as well, likely due to increased construction activity.”
Four of the six largest automakers reported year-over-year sales increases. Toyota led the way with a 41.5 percent gain, followed by Honda (30.9 percent), Chrysler (11.5 percent), and GM (1.5 percent). However, Carrier pointed out that the year-over-year comparisons are distorted by last year’s Japanese tsunami, which caused massive disruptions throughout the supply chain and led to stronger sales for American manufacturers.
The Conference Board’s measure of households planning to purchase vehicles in the next six months has remained high, which bodes well for future demand, Carrier noted. “In addition, the average age of vehicles on the road is 10.8 years, and we have already seen a shortage of used cars funnel many buyers to the new vehicle market.”
For more, see NAFCU’s Macro Data Flash.