Silver Lining for Tough Q1 in Auto Market

The first two months of the year were not especially robust in the US auto market.But thanks to a nice rebound in March things are looking a little better.

On the back of a strong March (17.5M SAAR), the first quarter came in at a SAAR pace of 16.94 million units, down about 1% from last year’s pace.

Continuing a long trend, nearly all light-truck segments gained ground in overall market share, with passenger cars continuing to decline.  Among the major automakers, Hyundai-Kia, Subaru, and Honda posted the largest percentage share gains, while GM, Nissan, and Toyota gave up the most.

Some key points from the 1st Quarter:

  • The quarter’s 16.94M SAAR for the entire US Market was off -0.9% versus Q1 2018.
  • Ram (+20.6%), Kia (+7.6%) and Subaru (+4.7%) lead the way for year-over-year increases among major brands.
  • Nissan (-11.6%), Chevy (-8.0%), Toyota (-7.4%) and Jeep (-6.7%) showed the sharpest declines.
  • Passenger car sales still languish, as light trucks now represent nearly 70% of new vehicle sales, continuing a six-year trend.
  • Crossovers account for nearly 40% of the US market, with pickups the second-largest segment at 16%.
  • Asia Pacific imports (46.4%) outsold domestics (44.4%), with European makes accounting for the remaining 9.2% of share
  • More discipline was on display in the market as average incentives declined $119 per unit to $3,821. This trend may dampen sales but help boost profit margins for automakers.

Higher vehicle prices will more than offset attractive interest rates, driving up average monthly payments and posing a challenge for unit growth. NADA’s early projection for the 2019 year is holding steady at 16.8M units.


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SAAR: Seasonally adjusted annualized (sales) rate.
Source: ESA Car Keys 360 Data Studio. NADA Market Beat | April 2019.

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