Retail Sales Expect to Slip 1.2 Percent Due to Labor Day Shift to September
Due to a quirk in the calendar, total and retail new-vehicle sales in August are expected to be lower than they were a year ago, according to a monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.
For the first time since 2012, new-vehicle sales over the Labor Day weekend will be tallied as part of September’s sales rather than counted in August’s number. Even when the Labor Day holiday falls in early September, its sales are often part of the August total, but not this year when the holiday lands on Sept. 7.
Labor Day weekend is traditionally the biggest new-vehicle sales weekend of the year, as consumers take advantage of holiday and model year-end sales promotions as well as the availability of new model-year vehicles arriving in showrooms. In 2014, the Labor Day holiday weekend coincided with the close of the August sales month, boosting that weekend’s sales to 278,878 units, 20 percent of August sales.
Retail Light-Vehicle Sales
New-vehicle retail sales are projected to hit 1.3 million units in August, a 1.2 percent decrease on a selling-day adjusted basis, compared with August 2014. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for retail sales in August 2015 is expected to be 13.7 million units, a decrease of 220,000 units from the selling rate a year ago. Retail transactions are the most accurate measure of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.
“On a year-over-year basis, August sales are going to appear weak, when in fact it’s really a variance in the numbers created by the calendar,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “There certainly is no cause for alarm. In fact, the daily selling rate month-to-date in August is trending 8 percent higher than the same period a year ago, although we do anticipate the absence of the holiday in August sales will diminish that rate by the end of the month.
“Our expectation is that with Labor Day falling in September, sales that would have occurred this month are being pushed into next month. If that happens, September will move sales back to the strong trend line we’ve been seeing throughout the year.”
Humphrey noted that continued high transaction prices on new vehicles demonstrate the continuation of the overall health of the industry. The average new-vehicle retail transaction price so far in August is $29,786, on pace to achieve a new record for the month. “We expect consumer spending on new vehicles in August to reach $39 billion, surpassing May 2015 as the fourth highest level on record,” said Humphrey.
The current retail transaction price record for the month was set in August 2014, when prices averaged $29,239, according to the Power Information Network (PIN).
Total Light-Vehicle Sales
Total light-vehicle sales are expected to reach 1.5 million in August 2015, a 0.2 percent decrease on a selling-day adjusted basis, compared with August 2014. The SAAR for total sales in August is expected to be 17.2 million units, a 100,000 unit decrease from the selling rate in August 2014.
An increase in fleet volume, projected at 210,000 units, is expected to offset some of the decline in retail sales in August. Fleet share of total sales is projected at 13.8 percent in August.
Robust performance in July is helping drive an increase in the outlook for retail light-vehicle sales in 2015. LMC Automotive is holding its 2015 total light-vehicle sales forecast at 17.1 million units, but the forecast for retail light-vehicle sales has been increased to 14.0 million from 13.9 million units for the year.
“The current stock market volatility does not seem to be having much of a negative impact on consumers as the selling rate remains well above 17 million units,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “Upside potential for the U.S. auto market is gaining momentum, as it now looks unlikely there will be an interest rate increase in September, and a delay in rising rates will most certainly assist in keeping growth on track.”
North American Production
North American production in July 2015 was 1.31 million units, a 6 percent increase compared with July 2014. Nearly all of the year-over-year increase is attributed to the continued strong demand for SUVs, as 80 percent of the production growth is from SUV volume. Even with higher overall production volume, manufacturers reduced inventory in July to a 59-day supply, down from 61 days in June 2015 and August 2014. LMC Automotive’s production forecast for 2015 remains at 17.5 million units, a 500,000 unit increase, compared with 2014.
About J.D. Power
J.D. Power is a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions. The company’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. Power Information Network (PIN) from J.D. Power has revolutionized the automotive industry by collecting and analyzing real-time transaction-level data for new and used vehicles. PIN’s data and analytics help automakers and dealers manage risk, monitor metric performance and improve business results. Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power has offices in North/South America, Europe and Asia Pacific. For more information on car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power is a business unit of McGraw Hill Financial.
About McGraw Hill Financial
McGraw Hill Financial (NYSE: MHFI) is a leading financial intelligence company providing the global capital and commodity markets with independent benchmarks, credit ratings, portfolio and enterprise risk solutions, and analytics. The Company’s iconic brands include: Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, S&P Capital IQ, S&P Dow Jones Indices, Platts, CRISIL and J.D. Power. The Company has approximately 17,000 employees in 30 countries.
About LMC Automotive
LMC Automotive is the premier supplier of automotive forecasts and intelligence to an extensive client base of automotive manufacturer, component supplier, logistics and distribution companies, as well as financial and government institutions around the world. LMC’s global forecasting services encompass automotive sales, production and powertrain expertise, as well as advisory capability. LMC Automotive has locations in the United States, the UK, France, Germany, China, Japan and Thailand and is part of the Oxford, UK-based LMC group, the global leader in economic and business consultancy for the agribusiness sector.