Q3 Auto Sales Improving, Still Well Below 2019 Level

New vehicle sales in September are projected to reach 1.22 million units, some 51,560 fewer than sold in September 2019. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales is expected to tumble from 17.1 million in September 2019 to 14.8 million this year. In August, automakers sold 1.32 million light vehicles.

Auto industry research firm ALG, a subsidiary of TrueCar, reported the estimates on Friday, noting that including an adjustment for selling days, third-quarter sales are expected to be down by 14% year over year in September but up by 28% month over month.

ALG’s September estimates are in line with the latest quarterly estimate, also published Friday by Edmunds. Third-quarter unit sales are forecast to reach 3.85 million, down 11% year over year, but up nearly 31% from the second quarter of this year.

Jessica Caldwell, the Edmunds executive director of insights, commented, “Most of the doomsday scenarios forecasted at the beginning of the pandemic fortunately did not hold true, and the American consumer stepped up to become one of the many heroes in this chapter of resilience for the automotive industry.”

Caldwell suggested that low interest rates, higher used car prices and higher value for trade-ins all contributed to the better than expected sales.

According to Edmunds, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) captured the third-quarter market share lead with 16.5% of all sales. That’s down from 17.1% a year ago and 16.7% in the prior quarter. GM’s quarterly unit sales are expected to total 634,261, a decline of 14.1% year over year, but an improvement of 28.8% compared with the second quarter’s actual sales.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) is forecast to take 14.3% of the U.S. market in the third quarter, down from 14.5% a year ago and up 5.7% sequentially. Toyota’s expected quarterly sales total is nearly 550,000 units, down 12.4% year over year and up 38% sequentially.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) is expected to post the third-largest share of third-quarter sales, with 13.9% of the market. That’s up from 13.4% in the third quarter of 2019 but down 5.7% from actual second-quarter sales. Ford’s unit sales for the quarter are forecast at 534,290 units, down nearly 8% year over year and up 23% sequentially.

Fiat Chrysler Automotive N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) is forecast to nab a market share of 13.3% in the third quarter, up from 13.1% in the same period a year ago and up more than 7% compared with the 2020 second quarter. FCA’s unit sales are forecast at nearly 514,000 vehicles, a drop of more than 9% year over year but up 40% compared with the second quarter.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) is expected to post a U.S. market share of 10.2% in the third quarter, up 3.2% year over year and up 2.8% sequentially. Honda is expected to post unit sales of more than 394,000 units, down 8.2% year over year but up nearly 25% sequentially.

According to ALG, the industrywide average transaction price for a new vehicle is expected to rise by 3.5% year over year and 0.4% month over month. Nick Woolard, ALG’s director of OEM Analytics, commented, “Inventory levels are still low for certain popular models across brands as supply continues to play catch up from production pauses a few months ago. That being said, brands with a fresh lineup of diverse inventory of in-demand SUVs, such as Hyundai, are seeing some of the highest jumps in retail sales and average transaction prices year-over-year.”

Hyundai-Kia sales are forecast to reach a third-quarter total of 337,533, up by 0.8% year over year and nearly 25% compared with second-quarter sales. Year over year, Hyundai-Kia’s market share is up 13.3% to nearly 9% of the total U.S. market.

ALG also estimates Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) will sell 23,903 units in September, up from 16,000 a year ago and 19,000 in August.

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