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Economy in Brief

U.S. Vehicle Sales Suffer From Promotions' End
by Tom Moeller February 3, 2010

The beginning of the new year brought an attempt by car-makers to back away from end-of-year sales promotions. As a result, higher prices as well as reduced inventories caused U.S. unit sales of  light vehicles during January to fall. According to the Autodata corporation, the decline to a seasonally adjusted 10.78M units from 11.25M in December nevertheless left sales up 12.1% from last January when the recession was near its depths. Sales were slightly weaker than Consensus expectations for 11.0M. (Seasonal adjustment of these figures is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis).

Sales of domestically made vehicles fell 6.4% last month to 7.88M units from 8.42M in December. Sales of fuel efficient cars fell 8.2% for the month (+30.3% y/y) following strength during December. Light truck sales similarly fell 4.7% m/m to the lowest level since September.

Contrary to the declines in domestics, imported light vehicle sales mirrored their December gain with a 2.5% m/m increase. The rise to 2.90M was to the highest level since August and raised them 2.2% y/y. Sales of imported autos inched up another 1.5% m/m while light truck sales rose 4.6% during January and by 18.0% from last year's low.

Overall, import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market during January improved m/m to 26.9%. That was its highest level since September but still down from its high of 27.6% during all of last year. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the United States.) Imports' share of the U.S. car market improved m/m to 33.7% but that still was below 34.3% during all 2009. Imports' share of the light truck market rose m/m to 19.1%, roughly stable with 19.6% last year.

The U.S. vehicle sales figures can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) January December November Jan. Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Total 10.78 11.25 10.93 12.1% 10.37 13.22 16.16
  Autos 5.70 6.01 5.65 21.6 5.46 6.76 7.58
    Domestic 3.78 4.11 3.77 30.3 3.56 4.44 5.06
    Imported 1.92 1.89 1.88 7.6 1.90 2.32 2.52
  Light Trucks 5.08 5.24 5.28 3.1 4.91 6.46 8.60
    Domestic 4.11 4.31 4.40 5.8 3.95 5.28 7.10
    Imported 0.97 0.93 0.88 -7.1 0.96 1.18 1.47
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