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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Fall for Fifth Straight Month in September
by Tom Moeller  October 1, 2021

• Car sales' decline is more than four times the drop in light truck sales.

• Domestic vehicle sales' shortfall is double that of imports.

• Chip shortage continues to limit model availability.

The Autodata Corporation reported that light vehicle sales during September declined 6.3% (-25.6% y/y) to 12.27 million units (SAAR) from 13.09 million in August. Sales have fallen by one-third since the April peak of 18.50 million units.

Passenger car sales plunged 15.8% (-32.5% y/y) in September to 2.62 million after an 11.4% August decline. Purchases of domestically-produced cars weakened 19.5% last month (-41.5% y/y) to 1.61 million units after falling 11.9% in August. Down for a fourth straight month, sales of imported autos weakened 9.0% in September (-10.6% y/y) to 1.01 million following a 10.5% August shortfall.

U.S. consumers continue to prefer larger vehicles. Trucks' share of the light vehicle market rose to 78.6% last month. That was increased from a low of 48.1% during all of 2009.

Sales of light trucks declined 3.4% (-23.5% y/y) in September to 9.65 million units after falling 10.9% in August. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks fell 4.2% in September (-26.8% y/y) to 7.23 million units after declining 11.2% in August. Sales of imported light trucks eased 0.8% last month (-11.7% y/y) to 2.42 million, down from April's record 3.30 million units.

Imports' share of the U.S. vehicle market rose last month to 28.0% and remained up from 23.5% in December. It has been rising steadily from 19.9% in 2015. Imports' share of the passenger car market surged to a record 38.5% in September. Imports' share of the light truck market rose to 25.1% last month, up from a recent low of 20.7% in August 2020.

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) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 12.27 13.09 14.72 -25.6 14.58 17.06 17.32
 Autos 2.62 3.11 3.51 -32.5 3.52 4.82 5.40
  Domestic 1.61 2.00 2.27 -41.5 2.51 3.53 4.05
  Imported 1.01 1.11 1.24 -10.6 1.01 1.29 1.36
 Light Trucks 9.65 9.99 11.21 -23.5 11.07 12.24 11.92
  Domestic 7.23 7.55 8.50 -26.8 8.65 9.70 9.44
  Imported 2.42 2.44 2.71 -11.7 2.41 2.54 2.48
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