Cox: SAAR Falls to 15.5 Million

By Staff Writer December 28, 2020

Boosted by year-end sales and extra selling days, light-vehicle sales in the U.S. for December are expected to finish near 1.54 million, a 1.9 percent increase over last December, according to Cox Automotive.

Cox reports the gain is a bit misleading, however, as there are 28 shopping days this month, three more than last year and five more than last month. With that many extra days for vehicle shoppers to acquire new wheels, a volume increase is more than expected. When volume is viewed on a seasonally adjusted basis, the sales pace is forecast to fall to a 15.5 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), down from last month and down nearly 7 percent from last December’s 16.8 million pace.

“December new-vehicle sales should show a year-over-year increase thanks to the three additional shopping days,” said Charles Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive. “But concerns about the virus, more state-directed lockdowns, and the ongoing economic recession are likely to constrain holiday sales.

“The passage of more government stimulus this week is good news overall, but we do not expect new government stimulus to impact the new-vehicle market in any noticeable way in December.” 

New light-vehicle sales are forecast to increase nearly 30,000 units, or 1.9 percent, compared to December 2019. When compared to last month, sales are expected to rise nearly 350,000 units, or nearly 29 percent.

Full-year 2020 sales are forecast to end down 15.3 percent from 2019. After a 34.1 percent drop in Q2, improvements in Q3 and Q4 salvaged what many in the industry thought would be a far worse year. The year 2020 will be the first with below 17 million sales since 2014.

“This year presented the economy and the auto market with incredible challenges,” said Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “As we close the year, it is remarkable to see how well the industry performed. Retail vehicle sales will end the year down less than 10 percent despite losing six weeks of the most important time of the year.

“Supply constraints likely prevented even better volume performance, but most manufacturers and dealers enjoyed improved profitability as a result of limited supply and robust demand. We enter 2021 still battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but the distribution of vaccines gives us confidence that the economy and the auto market will both see continued progress once we get through the winter.”

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Last modified on Tuesday, 05 January 2021 15:47