Cox: March Sales Show Strong Growth

By Staff Writer March 29, 2021
Inventory levels are tight right now and could hinder the market in coming months Inventory levels are tight right now and could hinder the market in coming months

March U.S. auto sales, when reported this week, will show strong growth over February’s pace and a significant increase over last year’s pandemic numbers. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales this month is forecast by Cox Automotive to hit 16.5 million, up from February’s 15.7 million pace and well above last March’s dismal 11.4 million level. 

Sales volume is forecast to increase nearly 50 percent over last March and reach 1.48 million units. While sales in the first quarter have been healthy, they remain below pre-pandemic levels. Total sales in Q1 2021, forecast at 3.77 million units, will be up 8.7 percent versus Q1 2020 but down 4.9 percent from Q1 2019 when 3.97 million sales were reported.

Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist, Cox

The sales recovery has been choppy since September, Cox reported. The SAAR has bounced around between the upper-15 to mid-16 million levels over the past six months. A return to the higher end is expected in March’s numbers. The sales pace should improve this month after being hampered by winter storms that disrupted much of the country in February. With the deep freeze impacting markets as far south as Houston and disrupting millions of lives and businesses for days, many sales were likely delayed into early March. Also, the distribution of stimulus checks is well underway, and Cox analysts already noticed upward movement in daily sales tracking numbers as a result. 

“Inventory levels are tight right now, though, and this could hinder the market in coming months,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist, Cox Automotive. “Supply chain disruptions that continue to plague the industry are adding to the short supply situation. Although lean inventories have not had much impact on buyers in the first quarter, that will likely change as we move into Q2. The production disruptions happening now will turn into even lower inventory in the months ahead.”

March 2021 Sales Forecast Highlights

  • In March, new light-vehicle sales are forecast to increase by 490,000 units, or nearly 50 percent, compared to March 2020. When compared to last month, sales are expected to rise nearly 300,000 units, or 25.4 percent. 
  • The SAAR in March 2021 is estimated to be 16.5 million, above last year’s 11.4 million level and an increase from last month’s 15.7 million pace. There are 26 selling days this month, one more than last year and two more than February, so additional time will also help lift sales.
  • Year-over-year comparisons will become less relevant in the months ahead as large year-over-year increases are reported. Compared to March 2019, sales volume this month is forecast to be down by more than 8 percent. March 2019 had one additional selling day than March 2021.
  • First-quarter sales are forecast to be up 8.7 percent compared to Q1 2020 but down 4.9 percent versus Q1 2019.
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Last modified on Monday, 05 April 2021 13:58