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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Rebound
by Tom Moeller  June 3, 2019

The Autodata Corporation reported that sales of light vehicles during May increased 6.2% (1.2% y/y) to 17.40 million units (SAAR) and reversed April's 6.1% decline. Sales have been moving sideways since the middle of last year. Nevertheless, motor vehicles & parts contribution to real GDP growth was -0.42 percentage points during Q1'19.

Light-truck sales increased 8.0% (6.7% y/y) last month to a 12.38 million unit rate and reversed the 6.5% April decline. They have remained in an upward trend since the recession's end. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks rose 9.6% (7.8% y/y) to 9.97 million units. The gain fully reversed the prior month's decline. Sales of imported light trucks rose 2.1% (2.4% y/y) to a 2.41 million sales rate after a 2.9% decline. These sales have roughly tripled during the last ten years.

Auto sales improved 1.6% (-10.2% y/y) to a 5.02 million annual unit pace following a 4.8% April decline. Car sales nevertheless have remained in a downtrend since 2014. Purchases of domestically-produced cars were little changed (-12.1% y/y) at 3.51 million units after falling 7.1% in April. Sales of imported cars improved 7.1% (-5.5% y/y), up for the third straight month, to 1.51 million units.

Trucks' share of the U.S. vehicle market rose to a record high of 71.1%. The share rose from 68.2% last year and a low of 47.3% in 2009.

Imports share of the U.S. vehicle market eased last month to 22.5% but has been trending upward since 2015. Imports' share of the passenger car market surged to 30.1%, nearly a six-year high. Imports share of the light truck market eased to 19.5%., but remained up from the 11.8% low in April 2014.

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) May Apr Mar May Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 17.40 16.39 17.45 1.2 17.21 17.23 17.55
 Autos 5.02 4.94 5.19 -10.2 5.48 6.33 7.10
  Domestic 3.51 3.53 3.80 -12.1 3.99 4.58 5.20
  Imported 1.51 1.41 1.39 -5.5 1.49 1.75 1.90
 Light Trucks 12.38 11.46 12.26 6.7 11.74 10.90 10.44
  Domestic 9.97 9.10 9.83 7.8 9.42 9.00 8.75
  Imported 2.41 2.36 2.43 2.4 2.32 1.90 1.69
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