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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Turn Sharply Downward
by Tom Moeller  May 1, 2019

The motor vehicle weakened significantly last month. The Autodata Corporation reported that sales of light vehicles during April declined 6.1% (-4.3% y/y) to 16.39 million units (SAAR). It reversed a 5.3% March increase and left sales at the lowest level since October 2014.

Auto sales fell 4.8% (-9.7% y/y) to a 4.94 million unit pace following a 3.4% increase. It continued the downward trend in place since 2014. Purchases of domestically-produced cars were off 7.1% (-10.8% y/y) to 3.53 million units after rising 4.1% in March. Sales of imported cars improved 1.4% (-6.7% y/y) for a second month to 1.41 million units.

Light-truck sales weakened 6.5% (-1.8% y/y) last month to an 11.46 million unit rate and reversed the 6.1% March gain. They remained, however, in the upward trend in place since the recession's end. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks fell 7.4% to 9.10 million units (-2.0% y/y). The decline fully reversed the prior month's increase. Sales of imported light trucks eased 2.9% (-0.7% y/y) to a 2.36 million sales rate after a 1.7% rise and continued to gain share of the truck market.

Trucks' share of the U.S. vehicle market was little changed near the record high at 69.9%. The share rose from 68.3% last year and a low of 47.3% in 2009.

Imports share of the U.S. vehicle market rose last month to 23.0% and has been trending upward since 2015. Imports' share of the passenger car market increased to 28.5%, an 11-month high. Imports share of the light truck market improved to 20.6%, up from a low of 13.8% in 2012.

U.S. vehicle sales figures can be found in Haver's USECON database. Additional detail by manufacturer is in the INDUSTRY database.

Light Weight Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Million Units) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 16.39 17.45 16.57 -4.3 17.21 17.23 17.55
 Autos 4.94 5.19 5.02 -9.7 5.48 6.33 7.10
  Domestic 3.53 3.80 3.65 -10.8 3.99 4.58 5.20
  Imported 1.41 1.39 1.37 -6.7 1.49 1.75 1.90
 Light Trucks 11.46 12.26 11.55 -1.8 11.74 10.90 10.44
  Domestic 9.10 9.83 9.15 -2.0 9.42 9.00 8.75
  Imported 2.36 2.43 2.39 -0.7 2.32 1.90 1.69
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