Area sales down 4.7% in third quarter, down 10.4% year to date

Like the rest of the country, the Washington area has seen new-vehicle sales drop in recent months. The latest R.L. Polk report commissioned by WANADA shows sales down 4.7 percent in the third quarter and down 10.4 percent year to date through September.


Sales fell much less nationally, by 1.7 percent year to date. One reason for the discrepancy for Washington area versus U.S. sales is that sales in our region started out better, as Washington has long been known for weathering a recession better than most parts of the country because of the relative stability of the federal workforce. This year some of that stability has started to crumble, as many federal positions go unfilled. Lower and middle level federal workers may have felt the need to be more cautious in their spending in preparation for an unknown future.


WANADA’s Area Report for the third quarter is based on R.L. Polk new-vehicle registration data for the 12 major localities that make up the metro Washington area market. U.S. sales data are from Automotive News.


Area sales for the third quarter totaled 81,637 in metro Washington, with the most sales in August (27,920), followed by September (26,535) and July (25,043). The year-to-date sales of 228,695 again positioned the metro area to probably surpass 300,000 new vehicle sales for the year. Dealers nationwide are anticipating strong manufacturer incentives to close out the year, as automakers have already shown a fondness for them this fall.


Car and truck sales in the Washington area fell by about the same percent from a year ago – 10.5 percent for cars and 10.38 percent for trucks. What’s startling is the continued strong showing by trucks in a region that until fairly recently showed a strong preference for passenger cars. Light trucks made up 56.2 percent of Washington area sales through September, the same proportion as in 2016. The national figure was even higher, at 63.5 percent.


“Trucks” is a diverse category that in this case includes many SUVs and especially crossovers. Gas remains fairly cheap, and people want a vehicle that can carry their children and haul their stuff.


The Washington area preference for imports (non-Detroit Three vehicles) is stronger than ever. They made up an impressive 72.7 percent of sales through September, up from 67 percent a year earlier.


For the complete copy of the WANADA Area Report on third quarter Washington area new vehicle sales, click here and log in with your user name and password-or call WANADA office to obtain.

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