Kelly Blue Book: Car Sales to Fall 7% in December

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December 29, 2017 by   Leave a Comment

Chevrolet pickup trucks and SUVs are seen at a dealership in Silver Spring, Md.

New-vehicle sales are expected to decline 7% year-over-year to a total of 1.57 million units in December 2017, resulting in an estimated 17.6 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to a press release from Kelley Blue Book.

“December should be the biggest sales month of the year, and despite our expectations for significant year-over-year declines, the projected SAAR of 17.6 million would be the third highest of the year,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “It’s also important to remember that December 2016 was the strongest month in nearly 15 years, fueled by heavy incentives and year-end sales objectives. We’re still expecting a year-end sales push from many manufacturers, which will translate into incentives and discounting, but since the sales objectives should be reduced from last year’s peak, we are projecting slower sales than last December.”
Key highlights for December sales included:
• In December, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are expected to hit 1,570,000 units, down 7% compared to December 2016 and up 13% from November 2017.
• The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for December 2017 is estimated to be 17.6 million, down from 18.1 million in December 2016 and up from 17.3 million in November 2017.
• Retail sales are expected to account for 82.4% of volume in December 2017, down from 82.8% in December 2016.
• After a record year of sales in 2016 and seven consecutive annual increases, Kelley Blue Book expects sales for 2017 to come in at 17.1 million, which is a 2% decrease from last year and the fourth-largest sales total in history. For 2018, Cox Automotive, Kelley Blue Book’s parent company, forecasts new-car sales at 16.7 million units for the year.
Kelley Blue Book anticipates nearly all automakers to report negative sales growth for December 2017. Out of the major manufacturers, Ford could have one of the better months, gaining nearly a percentage point of market share. Headlined by the new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, Ford SUVs will lead the way and could grow by as much as 10%. A new subcompact SUV, the Ford EcoSport, will be launched early next year to bolster the lineup and compete in a growing segment.
On the other end of the spectrum, Fiat Chrysler is poised to lose the most volume year-over-year, projected at a 12% decline. Some of the decreases are due to the discontinuation of several model lines this year, including the Chrysler 200, Dodge Dart and Jeep Patriot, which combined for nearly 12,000 sales last December. Fiat Chrysler also has been active in lowering fleet sales this year, which are down 25%, and continues this month to impact the year-over-year comparisons.
Full-size trucks should be the second-largest segment in the industry in December 2017 and its market share should climb as high as 14%. The Nissan Titan looks to have the highest year-over-year growth for the category, helped by incentives near $6,000 per unit. In addition, Chevrolet’s Employee Discount for Everyone program could lead to a good month for its Silverado.
As has been the case for much of 2017, mid-size cars will have another rough month and its market share could drop as much as 1.5 percentage points. Overall market share for cars could end the year under 36%, down from 39.2% in 2016. As the industry heads into 2018, there are no signs the shift away from cars will slow down.
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