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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Decline in December But Rise for All of 2021
by Tom Moeller  January 4, 2022

• Auto sales increase in December.

• Light truck sales fall at yearend.

• Chip shortage remains drag on sales.

The Autodata Corporation reported that light vehicle sales during December fell 3.1% (-22.9% y/y) to 12.72 million units (SAAR). Sales remained 31.2% below the April peak of 18.50 million units. During all of 2021, sales rose 3.5% versus 2020 to 15.10 million units, though that level remained 14.0% below the 2016 peak of 17.55 million units.

Trucks' share of the light vehicle market eased to 77.7% last month and stood below an 80.2% share in October. For all of last year, that share was 77.4%, up from a low of 48.1% during all of 2009.

Passenger car sales rose 6.0% (-26.2% y/y) in December to 2.84 million units after a 2.7% November rise. Car sales were at the highest level since August but fell 3.1% during all of 2021. Purchases of domestically-produced cars rose 1.0% last month (-28.8% y/y) to 1.93 million units following two months of strong increase. Sales of imported autos rose 15.2% in December (-20.2% y/y) to 0.91 million units and more than recovered November's decline. Nevertheless, imported car sales remained 38.9% below the May peak.

Sales of light trucks declined 5.3% (-21.8% y/y) last month to 9.88 million units and added to a 1.2% November shortfall. During all of last year, light truck sales rose 5.6% after declining 9.6% in 2020. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks fell 7.2% in December (-21.7% y/y) to 7.77 million units, the lowest level in three months. Partially offsetting this decline, sales of imported light trucks rose 2.4% last month (-22.7% y/y) to 2.11 million unit but remained 36.1% below April's record 3.30 million unit sales.

Imports' share of the U.S. vehicle market rose in December to 23.7%. It had risen to a September high of 27.9%. For all of last year, imports' share of the vehicle market rose to 25.3% from 19.9% in 2015. Imports' share of the passenger car market rose to 32.0% last month but remained below the September high of 38.1%. Imports' share of the light truck market edged higher to 21.4% and remained well below the 25.2% September high.

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) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2021 2020 2019
Total 12.72 13.13 13.17 -22.9 15.10 14.58 17.06
 Autos 2.84 2.68 2.61 -26.2 3.41 3.52 4.82
  Domestic 1.93 1.91 1.72 -28.8 2.25 2.51 3.53
  Imported 0.91 0.79 0.89 -20.2 1.16 1.01 1.29
 Light Trucks 9.88 10.43 10.56 -21.8 11.69 11.07 12.24
  Domestic 7.77 8.37 8.26 -21.7 9.03 8.65 9.70
  Imported 2.11 2.06 2.30 -22.7 2.66 2.41 2.54
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