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Economy in Brief

U.S. Vehicle Sales Dip But Remain Firm
by Tom Moeller  April 3, 2012

Sales of light motor vehicles dipped m/m during March but remained near the four-year high. Unit vehicle sales fell 4.8% m/m to 14.37M (AR) during March according to Autodata Corporation. That sales rate was up 10.0% versus one year earlier and remained nearly the highest since March 2008. It roughly matched the Consensus estimate for 14.3M sales, according to Bloomberg.

Auto sales fell 6.9% m/m (+12.6% y/y) to 7.64M. The decline reflected a 6.3% drop (+11.0% y/y) in domestic car sales to 5.14M and an 8.1% drop (+15.9% y/y) in imports to 2.50M. Light truck sales fell a lesser 2.4% m/m (+7.2% y/y) to 6.73M reflecting a 2.5% decline (+9.5% y/y) to 5.72M in domestic truck purchases. Sales of imported light trucks fell 1.7% (-4.4% y/y) to 1.01M.

Imports' share of the U.S. light vehicle market slipped to 24.4% in March, about the same as twelve months earlier. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) That share was, however, down from its peak of 29.9% in Q1'09. The lower foreign exchange value of the dollar must have played a role as it made imports relatively more expensive. Imports' share of the U.S. car market roughly held m/m at 32.8% but was down from its 38.1% peak. Imports' share of the light truck market edged up to 15.0% last month, down from its 23.9% peak in early '09. 

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

The minutes to the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting are available here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) Mar Feb Jan Y/Y % 2011 2010 2009
Total 14.37 15.10 14.18 10.0 12.78 11.58 10.38
 Autos 7.64 8.21 7.42 12.6 6.24 5.79 5.45
  Domestic 5.14 5.48 5.00 11.0 4.22 3.78 3.56
  Imported 2.50 2.72 2.42 15.9 2.02 2.00 1.89
 Light Trucks 6.73 6.89 6.76 7.2 6.54 5.79 4.93
  Domestic 5.72 5.87 5.73 9.5 5.55 4.84 3.96
  Imported 1.01 1.03 1.03 -4.4 1.00 0.96 0.97
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