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Economy in Brief

U.S. Vehicle Sales Drop With Higher Gasoline Prices
by Tom Moeller  April 4, 2011

Gasoline prices can have an impact on demand for motor vehicles. And when gas prices surge as they have, demand goes down, and demand for less fuel efficient light-trucks goes down a lot. Unit sales of light vehicles fell 4.2% during March to 13.11M units (SAAR). The decline reversed most of February's gain. Consensus estimated sales of 13.4M, according to the Bloomberg survey. (Seasonal adjustment of these figures is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.) The overall decline left sales up 11.8% versus last year.

Sales of less fuel efficient light trucks indeed showed the most weakness and fell 7.0% m/m to 6.14M, the lowest level since September. Domestic model sales fell 7.6% to 5.10M while imports fell 4.2% to 1.05M. Conversely, sales of autos rose 2.1% to 6.97M. It was the highest level since sales incentives spiked demand in August 2009. Imported car sales rose 2.8% to 2.20M and sales of domestics rose 1.7% to 4.77M.

Imports' share of the U.S. light vehicle market rose to 24.7%. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market ticked up to 31.5% versus the record 35.0% for all of 2010. Imports' share of the light truck market rose to 17.0% but remained down from the record 19.7% in 2009.

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

Bubbles and Unemployment from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis can be found here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total 13.11 13.44 12.62 11.8% 11.58 10.38 13.22
 Autos 6.97 6.83 6.09 15.0 5.78 5.45 6.76
  Domestic 4.77 4.69 4.12 16.5 3.78 3.56 4.44
  Imported 2.20 2.14 1.97 11.9 2.02 1.89 2.32
 Light Trucks 6.14 6.61 6.53 8.3 5.80 4.93 6.46
  Domestic 5.10 5.51 5.49 10.0 4.84 3.96 5.28
  Imported 1.05 1.09 1.04 0.7 0.96 0.97 1.18
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