US new vehicle sales to reach 17.1 million in 2017, dealers say

Number will be down from record 17.55 million sold in 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 12:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 2:24am

US sales of new vehicles should hit a seasonally adjusted annualised rate of 17.1 million units in 2017, the National Automobile Dealers Association said on Thursday, especially if automakers bring high inventory levels under control.

In a media conference call, Steven Szakaly, chief economist for the dealer lobbying organisation, said sales should dip to 16.8 million units in 2018 and then be within a range of 16.5 million units to 16.8 million units through 2020.

After a record 17.55 million units were sold in 2016, the US auto industry has posted declining sales for the past few months, with high consumer discounts and inventory levels posing concerns for Wall Street. A glut of nearly new, low-mileage off-lease vehicles is expected to pose a challenge to new vehicle sales.

Sales of sedans have been particularly weak as consumers increasingly shifted toward pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers. Szakaly said consumer discounts are focused heavily on the less-popular models.

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“We do expect incentives to rise this year, especially as off-lease (sales) begin to exert further downward pressure on sedan pricing throughout the rest of 2017,” Szakaly said.

Tackling high inventory levels should help automakers meet their sales forecast.

“If we see inventories level off into September and throughout the third quarter, I think it will be a very strong sign that the industry has made the right decisions, and we should easily make our 17.1 million sales number,” he said.