April 04, 2017

March vehicle sales hit slowest pace in 2 years

Total vehicle sales slid in March from February's rate of 17.58 million to 16.62 million seasonally adjusted, annualized units. This represents the slowest sales pace in more than two years, NAFCU Research Assistant Yun Cohen pointed out in a NAFCU Macro Data Flash report Tuesday.

"The slowdown might be partially attributed to a major snowstorm on the east coast," Cohen said. "Higher interest rates and lower trade-in values might have also played a role."

March's monthly sales levels were down 0.3 percent from a year ago.

Car sales fell in March to 6.3 million from February's 6.5 million annualized units. Meanwhile, sales of light trucks fell from 11 million to 10.3 million annualized units.

Four of the six largest automakers reported decreases in their year-over-year sales numbers. Ford reported the largest decline in sales (-7.2 percent), followed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (-4.6 percent), Toyota (-2.1 percent) and Honda (-0.7 percent). Nissan reported a 3.2 percent gain in sales, followed by General Motors (+1.5 percent).

The U.S. brand share of the total vehicle market was 43.8 percent in March, down from 46 percent in February. The share of domestically assembled vehicles decreased from 80.2 percent to 79.3 percent.

"Inventory levels continue to rise, and car makers are feeling pressured to increase discounts in order to spur sales," Cohen said.

"On the positive side, demand and consumer confidence remain strong," she added. "Overall, a solid labor market, improving wage growth, and a buoyant stock market should support strong sales throughout the year."