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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Edge Higher During January
by Tom Moeller  February 2, 2021

• Sales of light trucks lead the improvement.

• Domestic passenger car sales falter.

• Imports' share of vehicle market improves.

Light vehicle sales improved last month. The Autodata Corporation reported that sales of light vehicles rose 2.6% during January (-1.3% y/y) to 16.83 million units (SAAR) and added to December's 3.1% rise to 16.41 million units. It was the highest level of sales since February of last year.

Sales of light trucks increased 3.0% (3.3% y/y) during January to a record 12.95 million units. Purchases of domestically-made light trucks increased 2.6% (2.0% y/y) to 10.16 million units following a 7.4% December gain. Adding to this rise, sales of imported light trucks rose 4.5% (8.6% y/y) to a record 2.79 million units after falling 2.9% during December. Imported trucks 21.5% share of the U.S. light truck market was increased from a low of 14.7% during all of 2014.

Trucks' share of the light vehicle market improved to 76.9%, but still was below the 77.5% peak during May of last year.

Auto sales rose 1.0% (-14.2% y/y) last month to 3.88 million units, but they remained below the 2014 peak of 7.71 million units. Purchases of domestically-produced cars fell 1.9% (-19.9% y/y) to 2.65 million units after declining 4.6% in December. Offsetting this decline, sales of imported autos strengthened 7.9% (1.7% y/y) to 1.23 million, the highest level since February.

Imports' share of the U.S. vehicle market edged higher last month to 23.9%. That placed them up from 22.2% in January 2020 and a low of 19.9% during all of 2015. Imports' share of the passenger car market strengthened to 31.7% in January, the highest level since June. Imports' share of the light truck market was little-changed m/m at 21.5%. It has been trending upward 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.

An Overview of the Economic Outlook: 2021 to 2031 from the Congressional Budget Office can be found here.

Light Weight Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Million Units) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 16.83 16.41 15.91 -1.3 14.55 17.06 17.32
 Autos 3.88 3.84 3.93 -14.2 3.54 4.82 5.40
  Domestic 2.65 2.70 2.83 -19.9 2.53 3.53 4.05
  Imported 1.23 1.14 1.10 1.7 1.01 1.29 1.36
 Light Trucks 12.95 12.57 11.98 3.3 11.01 12.24 11.92
  Domestic 10.16 9.90 9.22 2.0 8.62 9.70 9.44
  Imported 2.79 2.67 2.75 8.6 2.39 2.54 2.48
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