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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Remain Depressed As Import Sales Lowest Since 1999
by Tom Moeller May 4, 2009

What lift may have been evident in sales of light vehicles dissolved with the report that sales in April fell, despite a new round of price discounts. U.S. unit sales of light vehicles reversed most of a March gain with a 5.5% m/m decline to 9.32M units (SAAR). The best that can be observed about sales is that the earlier decline has flattened out here in 2009 but they do remain 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).

Imported light vehicle sales fell a hard 14.0% m/m last month to their lowest level in more than ten years. A 22.7% decline in light truck sales to 0.84M led that decline while sales of imported autos fell a lesser 8.9%. That drop reversed nearly all of a March increase and left sales at their lowest level of this year.

Sales of domestically-made light vehicles reversed a piece of the prior month's 10.1% increase with a m/m decline of 2.0% from March to 6.78M units. Sales of domestically made light trucks slipped 0.6% to 3.67M units after their impressive 8.7% March gain. Auto sales, however, fell larger 3.6% to 3.10M units.

Overall, import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market fell sharply to 27.2% which was their lowest level of this year. Nevertheless, the figure remained up the 2008 average of 26.3%. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market totaled 35.3%, up slightly from the 2008 average, while the share of the light truck market was 18.5%, roughly equal to last year.

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

New vehicle characteristics and the cost of the corporate average fuel economy standard from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) April March February April Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Total 9.32 9.83 9.12 -35.8% 13.17 16.16 16.54
  Autos 4.81 5.05 4.63 -35.5 6.71 7.58 7.77
    Domestic 3.11 3.23 2.89 -36.0 4.42 5.07 5.31
    Imported 1.70 1.83 1.74 -34.7 2.29 2.52 2.45
  Light Trucks 4.51 4.78 4.50 -36.2 6.47 8.60 8.78
    Domestic 3.67 3.70 3.40 -35.8 5.29 7.10 7.42
    Imported 0.84 1.08 1.10 -38.9 1.18 1.47 1.37
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