Washington area sales up 0.9% in 2018, up 12.8% in 4th quarter

After an up-and-down year, Washington-area new vehicle sales rallied in the fourth quarter and ended 2018 with a 0.9 percent gain over the prior year. That’s a better increase than U.S. sales, which rose 0.5 percent for the year. Washington area figures are from WANADA’s Area Report based on R.L. Polk new-vehicle registration data¸ and can be accessed by clicking here. U.S. sales figures are from NADA.

Last year saw a lot of uncertainty in the new vehicle sales in the Washington area economy, with the threat of government shutdowns and many federal appointments left unfilled. Uncertainty doesn’t put consumers in the mood to buy big-ticket items like new vehicles. The year saw four interest rate hikes. But the slight year-end sales gain is much better than year-end 2017, which saw a 9.6 percent drop in area sales.

Area sales in the second half of the year were markedly better than in the first half. Every month from January to June saw sales decline; every month from July to December saw sales rise. In the fourth quarter of 2018, December (+18.6 percent) and October (+14.4 percent) were particularly impressive. November sales were up a more modest 4.7 percent. Total sales for the year came in solidly at 309,511 new vehicles for D.C., suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Imports made up 70 percent of new-car and-truck sales in the region last year, down slightly from last year’s import share of 72.8 percent. Imports (non-Detroit 3) made up 79.3 percent of all new-car sales – high, but down from 2017’s 82.4 percent. Import trucks’ share of new-truck sales were less at 63.1 percent, down from 65.5 percent in 2017. Sales in the region continue to favor imports more than the rest of the nation, with the percentage varying from year to year.

Washington area buyers’ move toward light trucks, SUVs, and CUVs continues to accelerate, hitting 62.1 percent last year, up from 57.3 percent in 2017. That’s still below the U.S. figure of 69.2 percent.

For the complete WANADA Area Report on fourth quarter and total 2018 Washington area new vehicle sales, WANADA members can click here and log in with their user name and password.

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