January Auto Sales Seen Down Nearly 3%

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Automakers are scheduled to report U.S. new car sales for January on Thursday, February 1. Unit sales are forecast to be 2.9% lower than January 2017 sales, and retail sales are forecast to slip 2.7% year over year.

The data were reported by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, and the forecast is based on sales for the first 16 days of the month.

J.D. Power Senior Vice-President Thomas King said:

Coming off a strong sales period to close out 2017, a slower start to the year was anticipated. After the industry’s emphasis on the sell-down of old model-year vehicles in December, January is a transition month as manufacturers shift focus towards 2018 model-year vehicles.

While January is historically the poorest month for sales, the number of sales this year will be offset by the highest-ever January average transaction price: $32,169. When average transaction prices rise, incentives often follow and the industry set a record for incentive spending per vehicle in 2017.

Back in December, J.D. Power analysts estimated average 2017 incentives of $4,302 per vehicle. The average January incentive is $3,733, up by $94 year over year and well on the way to setting a new high for the month.

Light trucks have accounted for 67% of all sales for the month of January, the highest level ever for the month and the 19th consecutive month when truck sales topped 60% of all new vehicle sales.

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive have forecast the January seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales at 17.1 million units and a retail SAAR of 13.7 million units. In January of last year, the total SAAR was 17.4 million and the retail SAAR was 13.9 million. In December 2017, retail SAAR was 14.8 million and total SAAR was 17.9 million.