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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Weaken
by Tom Moeller  November 1, 2019

The market for new motor vehicles softened last month. The Autodata Corporation reported that sales of light vehicles during October declined 3.8% (-4.9% y/y) to 16.58 million units (SAAR) from 17.23 million during September. It was the lowest level of sales in six months. During the first ten months of 2019, sales averaged 16.98 million units versus 17.27 million during all of last year.

Sales of light truck sales fell 2.8% last month (+1.7% y/y) to 12.09 million units. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks were off 4.1% (+1.3% y/y) to 9.62 million units, while sales of imported light trucks increased 3.3% (2.9% y/y) to 2.48 million units. Imported truck sales have roughly doubled in the past five years.

Auto sales fell 6.3% (-19.0% y/y) to 4.49 million. This compares to a peak level of 7.90 million unit sales during all of 2014. Purchases of domestically-produced cars weakened 9.6% (-23.4% y/y) to 3.11 million units, the lowest level since April 2009. Sales of imported cars edged 2.2% higher (-6.8% y/y) to 1.38 million units, but that still was near the lowest level since September 1998.

Trucks' share of the U.S. light vehicle market increased to a record 72.9%, up from a low of 48.8% during all of 2012.

Imports' share of the U.S. vehicle market increased to 23.2%, the highest percentage since early-2012. Imports' share of the passenger car market rebounded to 30.7% following three months of decline. Imports share of the light truck market rose to 20.5% and remained up from the 12.0% low in January 2015.

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) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 16.58 17.23 17.07 -4.9 17.27 17.23 17.55
 Autos 4.49 4.79 4.78 -19.0 5.49 6.32 7.09
  Domestic 3.11 3.44 3.37 -23.4 4.00 4.58 5.20
  Imported 1.38 1.35 1.40 -6.8 1.49 1.74 1.89
 Light Trucks 12.09 12.44 12.29 1.7 11.79 10.90 10.46
  Domestic 9.62 10.03 9.90 1.3 9.44 9.00 8.76
  Imported 2.48 2.40 2.39 2.9 2.35 1.91 1.70
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