October new vehicle sales fall 1.1%, but still better than expected; incentives high

Sales of new vehicles in the U.S. for October edged down 1.1 percent, but that was better than the 2 to 4 percent drop some analysts had forecast. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) was the second highest this year, at 18.1 million.

As has been the case for several years, pickups and SUVs drove sales, and passenger cars lagged. Recent area WANADA reports have found that even in this traditionally car-dominant area, crossovers, SUVs and light trucks have outpaced cars.

High incentives also helped push sales. October incentives reached a near-record of $3,372 per vehicle, Edmunds said. Average new-vehicle prices remained flat from a year ago, with an estimated average transaction price for light vehicles at $35,263, according to Kelley Blue Book.

“Transaction prices continue to rise at a slower pace than we’ve seen recently,” said Tim Fleming, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Flat transaction prices combined with ever-growing incentive spending signal headwinds for the new-vehicle market as 2017 nears its end.”

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