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Economy in Brief

U.S. Vehicle Sales Payback August Strength
by Tom Moeller October 2, 2009

Payback time came last month for vehicle sales that were pulled forward by price discounts. U.S. unit sales of light vehicles during September fell sharply with the end of the "Cash-for-Clunkers" sales program. Sales last month fell 34.6% m/m to 9.22M units according to the Autodata Corporation. (Seasonal adjustment of the figures is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). September sales were weaker than the expected 9.6M sales rate and were at their lowest since February.

Sales of domestically made vehicles fell by more than one-third from August to 6.62M units and they were down 29.7% y/y. Sales of fuel efficient cars fell nearly 40% m/m while light truck sales posted a 29% m/m decline that left them down one-third versus last September. Year-to-date, sales of domestic vehicles overall were down 13.1% following last year's 35.8% drop from December-to-December.

Imported light vehicles similarly fell with the end of the government's sales program. A 36.5% m/m decline to 2.60 units more than reversed the August increase. Sales of imported autos fell a hard 36.3% while sales of imported light trucks also fell by more than one-third m/m. Year-to-date, sales of imported vehicles were slightly below last year's average.

Overall, import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market slipped to 28.2% last month from 29.0% in August. It reached 26.5% during all of last year. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market totaled 35.3%, versus 34.3% last year while the share of the light truck market was 19.7%, up slightly from 18.3% last year.

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

Regulatory reform is yesterday's House testimony by Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and it can be found here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) September August July Sept. Y/Y 2008 2007 2006
Total 9.22 14.09 11.24 -26.7% 13.17 16.16 16.54
  Autos 5.02 8.05 6.20 -20.3 6.71 7.58 7.77
    Domestic 3.25 5.26 4.11 -23.8 4.42 5.07 5.31
    Imported 1.77 2.78 2.09 -12.9 2.29 2.52 2.45
  Light Trucks 4.20 6.05 5.04 -33.0 6.47 8.60 8.78
    Domestic 3.37 4.75 4.06 -34.6 5.29 7.10 7.42
    Imported 0.83 1.31 0.98 -26.1 1.18 1.47 1.37
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