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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Strengthen During December
by Tom Moeller  January 5, 2021

• Sales of light trucks recover following two months of decline.

• Passenger car sales continue to slip.

• Imports' share of vehicle market backpedals.

Light vehicle buyers returned to the market last month following two months of decline. The Autodata Corporation reported that sales of light vehicles improved 3.1% during December (-4.3% y/y) to 16.38 million units (SAAR) and reversed virtually all of the decline during November to 15.89 million units. During all of 2020, light vehicle sales declined 14.8% to 14.54 million units, the lowest level since 2012.

Sales of light trucks increased 4.8% (1.5% y/y) during December to 12.53 million units. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks increased 7.3% (1.3% y/y) to 9.89 million units following two months of decline. Offsetting this rise was a 4.0% decline (+1.5% y/y) in imported light truck sales to 2.63 million units after rising 2.2% during November.

Trucks' share of the light vehicle market improved to 76.5% but still was below the 77.5% peak during May.

Auto sales fell 2.0% (-19.1% y/y) last month to 3.85 million units and were below the 2014 peak of 7.71 million unit. Purchases of domestically-produced cars fell 4.6% (-23.5% y/y) to 2.70 million units. Offsetting this decline, sales of imported cars strengthened 4.5% (-5.7% y/y) to 1.15 million, the highest level since February.

Imports' share of the U.S. vehicle market eased last month to 23.1%, reversing the improvement since August. Imports' share of the passenger car market increased to 29.9%, the highest level since June. Imports' share of the light truck market fell to 21.0% but has been trending up from 14.7% in 2014.

U.S. vehicle sales figures can be found in Haver's USECON database. Additional detail by manufacturer is in the INDUSTRY database.

The New Monetary Policy Framework and Some Implications for Financial Stability from Charles L. Evans, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here.

Light Weight Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Million Units) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 16.38 15.89 16.40 -4.3 14.54 17.06 17.32
 Autos 3.85 3.93 3.94 -19.1 3.54 4.82 5.40
  Domestic 2.70 2.83 2.83 -23.5 2.53 3.53 4.05
  Imported 1.15 1.10 1.11 -5.7 1.01 1.29 1.36
 Light Trucks 12.53 11.96 12.46 1.5 11.01 12.24 11.92
  Domestic 9.89 9.22 9.78 1.3 8.62 9.70 9.44
  Imported 2.63 2.74 2.68 1.5 2.39 2.54 2.48
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