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Economy in Brief

March U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Increase From 27-Year low
by Tom Moeller April 2, 2009

Perhaps replacement demand was a factor when it came to light vehicle sales last month. Possibly, it was deep price discounts. Or was this the beginning of a bona fide uptrend? For whatever reason, U.S. unit sales of light vehicles increased 7.8% from February to 9.83M units (SAAR). The result was an upside surprise versus expectations for a 9.2M sales rate. Though sales were up slightly from February as well as from January, the latest figure still was near the lowest since 1982 according to the Autodata Corporation and Ward's Automotive News. (Seasonal adjustment of the figures is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis).

Sales of domestically-made light vehicles registered an impressive 10.1% month-to-month increase from February to 6.92M units. That was enough to fully recover the 6.8% February drop. Sales of domestically made light trucks recovered more than half of their February decline with an 8.7% increase to 3.70M units. While impressive, that rise was outpaced by an 11.7% increase in auto sales to 3.23M units, their highest level since December.

Imported light vehicle sales rose a more modest 2.8% m/m last month but that followed a slight February increase. Still outpacing domestics, the year-to-year decline in sales of imported vehicles amounted to just 27.6%. That was far less than the decline for U.S. made vehicles. Sales of imported autos rose an impressive 5.1% during March to their highest level since last October. Light truck sales fell a modest 0.8% after four months of increase.

Overall, import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market totaled 29.6% following the record 31.1% during February. That latest figures were up nearly five percentage points from the 2008 average. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market totaled 36.2% while the share of the light truck market was 22.7%.

The U.S. vehicle sales figures can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Steps toward a New Financial Regulatory Architecture is yesterday's speech by Cleveland Fed President & CEO Sandra Pianalto and it can be found here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) March February January March Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Total 9.83 9.12 9.57 -34.9% 13.17 16.16 16.54
  Autos 5.05 4.63 4.60 -32.6 6.71 7.58 7.77
    Domestic 3.23 2.89 2.84 -33.9 4.42 5.07 5.31
    Imported 1.83 1.74 1.76 -30.1 2.29 2.52 2.45
  Light Trucks 4.78 4.50 4.97 -37.1 6.47 8.60 8.78
    Domestic 3.70 3.40 3.91 -40.3 5.29 7.10 7.42
    Imported 1.09 1.10 1.06 -23.0 1.18 1.47 1.37
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