How July Auto Sales Shape Up

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Automakers will be announcing U.S. new car sales next Wednesday, and two industry research firms are looking for sales come in lower, both month over month and year over year. The only difference is how much lower.

Cox Automotive expects a July seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17.1 million new vehicles sold, down from 17.4 million in June. New vehicle sales for the month are forecast to reach 1.41 million units. Analysts at Edmunds are forecasting total July sales of about 1.38 million, for a SAAR of 16.7 million.

The Detroit Three automakers — General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) — all reported second-quarter results on Wednesday. The bad news was made even worse by the announcement of the death of Sergio Marchionne, former CEO and Chair of FCA.

Auto sales are already beginning to feel the effects of new tariffs on steel and aluminum, and all three U.S. carmakers noted that profits are down as a result of rising commodity costs. So far all three appear to be eating the cost increases, but like all things that cannot go on forever, that will end, and consumers will be looking at higher sticker prices for new cars.

Here is the Cox forecast for July sales for the top five carmakers. We’ve included year-over-year and month-over-month percentage changes, along with July 2018 and July 2017 market share.

  • GM: 238,000 units; up 5.3% y/y and down 6.7% m/m; 16.9% share vs. 16.0% in July 2017
  • Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM): 200,000 units; down 9.9% y/y and down 4.6% m/m; 14.2% share vs. 15.7% last year
  • Ford: 196,000 units; down 1.7% y/y and down 14.6% m/m; 13.9% share vs. 14.1% last year
  • FCA: 175,000 units; up 8.4% y/y and down 13.5% m/m; 12.4% share vs. 11.4% last year
  • Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC): 145,000 units; down 4% y/y and down 1.1% m/m; 10.3% share vs. 10.7% last year.

Here are the Edmunds estimates with matching data points.

  • GM: 223,844 units; down 1.0% y/y and down 12.5% m/m; 16.2% share vs. 16.0% last year
  • Toyota: 206,569 units; down 7.0% y/y and down 1.4% m/m; 15.0% share vs. 15.7% last year
  • Ford: 196,274 units; down 1.5% y/y and down 14.5% m/m; 14.2% share vs. 14.1% last year
  • FCA: 165,797 units; up 2.7% y/y and down 18.0% m/m; 12.0% share vs. 11.4% a year ago
  • Honda: 140,770 units; down 5.0% y/y and down 16.0% m/m; 10.2% share vs. 10.7% last year

Exceptionally strong sales in June may have pulled some sales forward from July. Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo said:

July sales are looking reasonably strong, but we’re starting to see the first signs of speed bumps on the road ahead. With market factors such as rising interest rates keeping shoppers at bay, we expect to see a continued slowdown of the vigorous sales pace that the industry experienced in the first half of the year.

Cox Automotive analyst Charles Chesbrough echoed that sentiment:

Buying conditions will not be getting better in the second half. Gasoline prices remain elevated, higher interest rates are having an impact on household budgets, and consumer confidence, while still very high, is lower than it was earlier this year. Further, auto manufacturers are demonstrating some pricing discipline as dealer inventories are at a manageable level.

Used car sales are also strong, according to Edmunds. The firm sees an estimated sales volume of 3.4 million used vehicles in July, up from 3.2 million in June. July’s SAAR rises from 39.2 million in June to 39.5 million used vehicles.