October Auto Sales Expected to Drop More Than 6%

Automakers will be announcing U.S. new car sales next Friday, and two industry research firms are looking for sales to come in lower, both month over month and year over year. The decline is largely due to one fewer sales day this year and a sharp sales bump last year as Texas and Florida recovered from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Cox Automotive expects an October seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17.1 million new vehicles sold, down from 17.4 million in September. New vehicle sales for the month are forecast to reach 1.33 million units. Analysts at Edmunds are forecasting total October sales of about 1.32 million for a SAAR of 17.1 million.

Last October’s SAAR of 17.9 million was helped by replacement purchases for vehicles damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Cox expects a somewhat bigger decline driven by higher vehicle prices and rising interest rates.

Cox estimates monthly sales will drop 1.9% year over year in October and 6.6% month over month. Edmunds estimates a year-over-year drop of 2.1% and a month-over-month decrease of 6.7%.

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

  • General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM): 229,000 units; down 9.4% y/y and down 3.0% m/m; 17.4% share vs. 18.7% in October 2017
  • Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F): 180,000 units; down 9.9% y/y and down 8.4% m/m; 13.6% share vs. 14.8% last year
  • Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM): 174,000 units; down 7.7% y/y and down 14.3% m/m; 13.1% share vs. 14% last year
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Inc. (NYSE: FCAU): 176,000 units; up 14.8% y/y and down 11.9% m/m; 13.35% share vs. 11.4% last year
  • Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC): 125,000 units; down 1.8% y/y and down 5.8% m/m; 9.4% share vs. 9.4% last year.

Here are Edmunds’ estimates with matching data points:

  • GM: 230,502 units; down 8.8% y/y and down 2.3% m/m; 17.4% share vs. 18.7% last year
  • Toyota: 192,729 units; up 2.3% y/y and down 5.1% m/m; 14.6% share vs. 13.9% last year
  • Ford: 189,793 units; down 5.0% y/y and down 3.4% m/m; 14.4% share vs. 14.8% last year
  • FCA: 167,507 units; up 9.2% y/y and down 16.2% m/m; 12.7% share vs. 11.4% a year ago
  • Honda: 126,581 units; down 0.6% y/y and down 4.6% m/m; 9.6% share vs. 9.4% last year

Edmunds analyst Jeremy Acevedo commented:

The auto market has been so strong over the last several years it’s easy to forget that a SAAR over 17 million is nothing to sneeze at. But since sales are slowing, automakers and dealers will need to rally through November and December to move excess inventory off their lots. Car shoppers will likely see a slew of decent deals come this holiday sales season.

Cox senior economist Charlie Chesbrough added:

The October sales pace should decline from September, and decline from last October’s strong
17.9 million level. Double-digit declines in car segments will continue to weigh down the market, while modest gains with many trucks and crossovers will not be enough to lift the pace to higher levels.

Used car sales are also strong, according to Edmunds. The firm sees an estimated sales volume of 3.3 million used vehicles in October, flat with September used car sales. October’s SAAR for used vehicles is also forecast to be flat month over month at 39.6 million used vehicles.

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