US New Vehicle Sales End Q1 on Strong Note

March 24, 2011

jdpower-lt-vehicle-sales-mar-2011.JPGMarch 2011 new-vehicle retail sales are showing stability through the first three weeks of the month, continuing a trend of monthly double-digit year-over-year increases, according to new data from J.D. Power and Associates. March new-vehicle retail sales are projected to come in at 991,900 units, which represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 10.9 million units.

This level would bring the selling rate for Q1 2011 to 10.7 million units, slightly ahead of J.D. Power’s annual forecast of 10.6 million units.

March SAAR Rises 17% YOY

jdpower-saar-comparison-mar-2011.JPGThe March 2011 projected SAAR figure is about 17% higher than the SAAR of 9.3 million vehicles reported in March 2010. It is also down about 2% from 11.1 million vehicles in February 2011. Total projected SAAR for Q1 2011 is 32.2 million vehicles, up roughly 18% from 27.3 million vehicles in Q1 2010.

J.D. Power analysis also indicates shifts in the retail segment mix are becoming evident, as sub-compact cars are expected to be up 19% in March to 3.8%, from 3.2% in February. The share of compact cars is also expected to increase 20% to 20.4% in March from 17% in February.

Total New Vehicle Sales up 12% YOY

Total new vehicle sales for March 2011 are projected to be 991,900 units, 12% higher than 849,735 units a year earlier.

Total Light Vehicle Sales Up 9% YOY

Total light-vehicle sales for March 2011 are expected to come in at about 1.2 million units, which is 9% higher than roughly 1.06 million units in March 2010. Fleet sales in March are expected to decrease to 213,000 units, based on the expectations that Japanese manufacturers will reduce fleet sales and channel that volume to the retail market, due to concerns about inventory shortages. Fleet volume is projected to be 18% of total sales in March.

North American Production Up 15%

In February 2011, North American production was 1.06 million units, 15 percent higher than in February 2010. However, J.D. Power says near-term production is beginning to be impacted by parts shortages caused by the earthquake and tsunami crisis in Japan. To date, several manufacturers have eliminated overtime and Saturday production shifts. In addition, GM has idled its Shreveport, LA, facility until Japan-sourced part availability improves. Without any significant lost volume to date, Q1 2011 production is forecasted at 3.3 million units, 14% higher than the same period in 2010.

February Days’ Supply Falls 11 Days

As a result of strong February sales, days’ supply at the end of February 2011 fell 11 days to 60 days, from 71 days at the end of January 2011. The level of inventory rose to 2.5 million units from 2.2 million units, an increase of 13%. With the strength of March sales combined with supply constraints from Japanese imports, inventory is expected to continue to fall during the next few months.

Global Light Vehicle Sales Predicted to Rise 6%

Global new light-vehicle sales this year are projected to reach 76.5 million units in 2011, which would surpass the record of 72 million light vehicles sold in 2010 by about 6%, according to recent data from J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Forecasting. In turn, last year’s sales beat the previous record of 70 million, set in 2007, by almost 3%.

About the Data: J.D. Power and Associates gathers real-time transaction data from more than 8,900 retail franchisees throughout the US and is the publisher of the enclosed charts.

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