Analyst Forecasts See March Auto Sales Up Year Over Year

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Next Tuesday, April 3, automakers will report U.S. sales for the month of March, and industry analysts expect sales to post their first year-over-year increase after three consecutive months of lower sales. Adjusted to account for one more sales day this year, J.D. Power estimates March new car retail sales will reach 1.27 million units, while Cox Automotive sees around 1.24 million in retail sales.

Including fleet sales, J.D. Power is forecasting total sales of 1.61 million and Cox is forecasting total sales of 1.59 million.

On a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) basis, J.D. Power estimates yearly sales of 16.9 million units, down from 17 million SAAR last month and up from 16.8 million SAAR in March of 2017. Cox estimates a March SAAR of 16.7 million.

Among the top automakers, Cox forecasts General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) will sell 275,000 units in March, up 76.3% year over year and 24.5% month over month. GM will capture 17.3% of the U.S. market, up from 16.5% in March 2017.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is expected to sell 238,000 units in March, up 1.3% year over year and 23.1% month over month. Ford’s estimated market share for March is 15%, down from 15.2% a year ago.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) is on track to sell 220,000 units in March, up 2.2% year over year and 20.7% month over month. Toyota’s U.S. market share is expected to be 13.8%, down from 13.9% a year ago.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) is forecast to sell 195,000 units in March, up 2.5% year over year and up 17.5% month over month. FCA’s market share is forecast at 12.3% for the month, unchanged year over year.

The most popular segment of the market according to Cox is compact sport utility vehicle/crossovers, tapped to sell 265,000 units in March. Midsize SUV/crossovers are expected to sell 235,000 units, and full-size pickup sales are forecast at 225,000 units.

J.D. Power said the average transaction price for new car sales in the first half of March came to $32,129, a record high for the month. Light trucks (which includes SUVs and crossovers) accounted for 66% of March sales in the first two weeks of the month, the highest level ever. Incentive spending as a percentage of manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) was 10.3% in the first half of the month, the 20th of the last 21 months for incentive spending to average more than 10%.