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Economy in Brief

U.S. Higher Gasoline Prices Weigh on Light Vehicle Sales
by Tom Moeller May 2, 2008

U.S. sales of light vehicles during April dropped another 4.8% m/m to a 14.39M unit annual selling rate, according to the Autodata Corporation. So far this year vehicle sales have fallen 11.1% while, since December, gasoline prices have risen 20.9%.

Higher gas prices have weighed heaviest on sales of domestically made light trucks. They are relatively fuel inefficient and April sales fell 8.5% m/m. That brought the decline this year to 17.5%. In addition, sales of U.S. made cars fell 2.3% in April and they are down 9.4% in 2008. Overall, sales of domestically made light vehicles in April were at the lowest level since 1992.

Sales of imported light vehicles fell a relatively moderate 2.1% m/m 4.00M units after a 7.4% March increase. Despite the April decline, the latest level of imported vehicle sales remained near the record. Sales of imported autos fell just 0.7% after the 11.5% surge in March. So far this year sales of imported cars rose 1.6%. Showing that sales of imported light trucks weren't immune to the softening of overall consumer spending, they fell last month by 4.6% and the decline lowered sales so far this year by 10.5%.

Import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market rose to another record level of 27.8%. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the U.S. and does not include vehicles with the nameplate of a foreign manufacturer produced within the U.S.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market rose to 35.9% and the share of the light truck market was 19.3%; both records and more than double the shares ten years ago.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) April March Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total  14.39 15.11 -11.7% 16.18 16.55 16.96
  Autos 7.38 7.51 0.2% 7.58 7.77 7.65
    Domestic 4.73 4.84 -3.1% 5.07 5.31 5.40
    Imported 2.65 2.67 6.7% 2.51 2.45 2.25
  Light Trucks 7.02 7.61 -21.4% 8.60 8.78 9.32
    Domestic 5.67 6.19 -23.9% 7.12 7.42 8.12
    Imported 1.35 1.42 -9.0% 1.48 1.37 1.20
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