Crossovers, trucks push April sales up 5%
U.S. auto sales in April brought more of the same, which in this case was good modest but steady sales gains of 5 percent, thanks to pent-up demand and low interest rates. Low gas prices continued to push up sales of light trucks, SUVs and crossovers, which together make up 54.8 percent of market share, according to NADA. Washington area light truck sales share is typically lower than the nationwide rate.
The automotive retailing sector is continuing to outpace growth in the overall U.S. economy, said NADA Chief Economist Steven Szakaly. Economic and employment growth were slower than expected in the first quarter but vehicle sales remain strong.
Most automakers reported sales gains, including Ford, which had been down in recent months but saw sales rise 5 percent in April. Sales of the all-new Edge jumped 78 percent. General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Audi all reported gains.
Consumer and commercial customer demand for pickups and utility vehicles has been building since last fall, and thatês a clear sign that the slowdown in GDP growth during the winter months was caused by factors that are mostly transitory in nature, said Kurt McNeil, GMês U.S. vice president of sales operations. The auto industry continues to be on track to have its best sales year since 2006. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate in April was 16.5 million, lower than economistsê forecast of 16.7 million.
The boom in crossovers is fueled by millennials starting families and by empty nester baby boomers who are ready to downsize but still want cargo space, Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle told Automotive News. Small and midsize cars lost the most market share.
In what may be the best news of all for dealers, the average retail transaction price rose more than 3 percent in the first quarter from the same period a year ago, to $33,189. And Szakaly is optimistic about the rest of the year.
The historically strong spring and summer selling season will be driven by new and redesigned vehicles as well as competitive financing rates, which bode well for auto sales over the next several months, Szakaly said. He expects gas prices to rise just 11 percent through the rest of the year.Download Bulletin PDF