May New Car Sales Expected to Improve, but Only Slightly

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Automakers will be reporting May U.S. new car sales Thursday, June 1, and analysts’ projections are calling for the month’s sales to improve month over month but to decline year over year for the second consecutive month.

Analysts at J.D. Power and LMC Automotive expect total new car sales to reach 1.22 million units on a sales-day adjusted basis. May had 25 selling days, compared with 26 in April and 24 in May of 2017. The year-over-year decline is 2.9%, but the month-over-month gain is about 8.2%. The analysts forecast a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 16.9 million units, down up from 16.8 million last month and from 17.3 million in May 2016. forecasts total sales volume of 1.53 million units, just 0.3% higher year over year and up 7.5% compared with April sales. Analysts at Edmunds forecast total SAAR at 16.8 million units.

Analysts at Kelley Blue Book (KBB) also expect total sales to reach 1.535 million units to yield a SAAR of 16.7 million vehicles sold for 2017. Analyst Tim Fleming noted:

We could see a positive month for the industry for the first time this year in May, but Kelley Blue Book expects totals to finish about even year-over-year, despite one extra selling day in 2017. Retail numbers for May are expected to finish strong, however, they continue to be supported by considerable incentives and lease subvention.  In recent months, leasing appears to be reaching its peak, which is expected, given declining residual values and which is contributing to this year’s slowing sales.

Deirdre Borrego, J.D. Power’s senior vice-president of automotive data and analytics, noted that 20% of May 2016 sales came on the Memorial Day weekend.

KBB forecasts April sales for General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) at 248,000 units, up 3.1% year over year, and market share is forecast to rise by half a percentage point to 16.3% compared with May 2016 share. Edmunds forecasts a market share gain of 0.8% year over year with sales totaling about 254,000 units.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) should see sales of 232,000 units, according to KBB, a decrease of 1.2% year over year. Ford’s market share is forecast at 15.2%, down 0.2 from last May. Edmunds forecasts Ford’s share at 15.7% of the U.S. market, up 0.3 points year over year.

KBB expects Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) sales of 187,000 units, down 4% year over year, with a 0.5 point drop in market share to 12.3%. Edmunds forecasts a drop to 12.1% of the U.S. market, down 0.7 points compared with last May.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) is expected to post a sales increase of 0.3% by the KBB analysts. The company’s market share is also forecast flat year over year at 14.4%. Edmunds also expects Toyota’s share of the U.S. market to be flat year over year.

KBB forecasts Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) sales of 148,000, up 0.6% compared with May 2016. The analysts see Honda’s market share flat at 9.7%, while Edmunds forecasts the company’s share at 9.5%, down 0.2 points year over year.

Volkswagen sales forecast by KBB to rise by 3.7% to 54,000 and the German carmaker’s share is expected to increase from 3.4% a year ago to 3.5%.

According to J.D. Power, May incentive spending by automakers will average $3,583 per vehicle, up $241 from last year’s record incentive payment for the month. The average new-vehicle transaction price in May is forecast at $31,419, another record for the month.

J.D. Power also noted that even elevated incentives are not shortening the average days of inventory turnover. A vehicle’s average stay on dealer’s lot reached 71 days on May 14, the highest of any month since July 2009.