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Economy in Brief

U.S. May Light Vehicle Sales Recover Only To Low March Level
by Tom Moeller June 3, 2009

Consumers still are shying away from big-ticket expenditures. The added evidence of that trend is that unit sales of light vehicles during May increased just 6.4% m/m to make up an April decline. Year-to-date, total May vehicle sales remained down 3.8% at 9.91 million units (SAAR).

U.S. unit sales of light vehicles rebounded 7.0% to 7.26M units, still 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 trucks rose 9.1% to 4.01M units while auto sales rose a lesser 4.5% to 3.25M units. Sales of domestic vehicles YTD are down 5.6%.

Imported light vehicle sales also rose but they made up only about one-third of their 14.0% m/m April decline. At 2.66M units they remained near their lowest level in roughly ten years. Sales of imported light truck sales rose 9.4% to 0.91M units while sales of imported autos rose a modest 2.7% returning only to their February level. Sales of imported vehicles YTD increased 1.3%.

Overall, import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market fell again, last month to 26.8% which was their lowest level of this year. Nevertheless, the figure remained up from the 2008 average of 26.3%. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market totaled 34.9%, up slightly from the 2008 average, while the share of the light truck market was 18.6%, roughly equal to last year.

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

The Financial Crisis - Toward an Explanation and Policy Response from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond is available here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) May April March May Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Total 9.91 9.32 9.86 -30.5% 13.17 16.16 16.54
  Autos 4.99 4.81 5.09 -36.4 6.71 7.58 7.77
    Domestic 3.25 3.11 3.23 -37.1 4.42 5.07 5.31
    Imported 1.74 1.70 1.86 -35.0 2.29 2.52 2.45
  Light Trucks 4.92 4.51 4.78 -23.3 6.47 8.60 8.78
    Domestic 4.01 3.67 3.70 -22.6 5.29 7.10 7.42
    Imported 0.91 0.84 1.08 -26.0 1.18 1.47 1.37
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