US Light Vehicle Sales Down for 2019

US automotive sales declined for the 3rd straight year, but 2019 marked the fifth consecutive year the industry surpassed 17 million vehicle transactions.

With a soft December and a fourth quarter that declined 2.3% year-over-year, the US auto market finished the 2019 year behind last year’s performance. For the year, 17.1M light vehicles were sold, and consumers spent more overall on automotive purchases.

The Big 3 domestic automakers all declined in unit sales, and only three of the ten highest-volume brands saw year-over-year gains during 2019’s final quarter. The big share-gainers were Ram, Honda, and Kia.

No surprise that light-trucks grew even more relative to the general market, now at 72.9% of all light vehicles.  Some industry experts see this wedge growing to 75% within the next few years.

Some key points from the 4th Quarter:

  • A total of 4.29M units were sold for the quarter which was off -2.3% versus the final quarter of 2018.
  • The full-year tally of 17.1M units represents a -0.7% year-over-year decrease.
  • Audi (+17.4%), Kia (+10.3%), Mazda (+7.9%), BMW (+7.5%), and Ram (+5.5%) posted the largest year-over-year increases among major brands during Q4.
  • The biggest laggards for the quarter included Tesla, Nissan, Dodge, and GMC.
  • Light trucks continued their dominance, representing 72.9% of new vehicle sales. This continues a multi-year trend.
  • The hottest segment continues to be Crossovers, accounting for over 40% of the US market. Pickups are the second-largest segment at 17.9%.
  • Economic support for the auto market remain strong, including employment, wages, and interest rates.

Looking ahead to 2020, many analysts see another slight to moderate contraction in total units but continued increases in overall consumer spending as per-unit pricing rises and incentives are given closer scrutiny. NADA is projecting 2020 to come in at a 1% to 2% drop, which would put the year at 16.8M units.

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

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