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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Recover in May
by Tom Moeller  June 2, 2020

• Car & light truck sales both rise.

• Sales remain 28.6% below the February level.

• Fewer vehicle sales have been meaningful drag on economic growth.

The Autodata Corporation reported that sales of light vehicles strengthened 41.5% last month (-30.3% y/y) to 12.17 million units (SAAR) from 8.60 million in April.

So far in Q2'20, sales have averaged 10.4 million, down 31.6% from an average 15.2 million in Q1. The 10.2% sales decline from 16.88 million in Q4'19 subtracted 0.82 percentage points from growth in real GDP.

Sales of light trucks improved 43.6% (-24.8% y/y) to 9.46 million units. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks rose 37.5% (-28.2% y/y) to 7.19 million units. Sales of imported light trucks strengthened 67.6% (-11.3% y/y) to 2.28 million units.

Trucks' share of the U.S. light vehicle market reached a record 77.7%, up from a low of 48.8% during all of 2012.

Auto sales increased 34.8% (-44.5% y/y) to 2.71 million units and remained below a peak level of 7.71 million unit sales reached in 2014. Purchases of domestically-produced cars rose 25.0% (-47.7% y/y) to 1.85 million units. Sales of imported cars rebounded by nearly two-thirds m/m (-35.1% y/y) to 0.87 million units.

Imports' share of the U.S. vehicle market rose last month to 25.8%. Imports' share of the passenger car market jumped to 32.1%. Imports share of the light truck market improved to 24.1% and remained up from the 12.0% low in January 2015.

U.S. vehicle sales figures can be found in Haver's USECON database. Additional detail by manufacturer is in the INDUSTRY database.

Interim Economic Projections for 2020 and 2021 from the Congressional Budget Office can be found here.

Light Weight Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Million Units) May Apr Mar May Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Total 12.17 8.60 11.33 -30.3 16.99 17.27 17.23
 Autos 2.71 2.01 2.93 -44.5 4.80 5.36 6.16
  Domestic 1.85 1.48 2.16 -47.7 3.52 4.00 4.58
  Imported 0.87 0.53 0.78 -35.1 1.28 1.36 1.59
 Light Trucks 9.46 6.59 8.40 -24.8 12.18 11.92 11.07
  Domestic 7.19 5.23 6.82 -28.2 9.65 9.44 9.00
  Imported 2.28 1.36 1.58 -11.3 2.53 2.48 2.07
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