SAAR predicted to reach 12.1 million units this month

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SAAR-predicted-300In the U.S., February new-vehicle retail sales are expected to come in at 931,100 vehicles, putting the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) at 12.1 million units, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. If their prediction holds true, February’s SAAR would come in below January’s robust 13.1 million SAAR, but would best last February’s SAAR of 11.7 million.

“All signs of the industry’s health are positive right now,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Average transaction prices are up, incentives are stable, leasing is at a healthy level and newly redesigned models continue to make an impact on the marketplace.

U.S. Retail SAAR—February 2012 to February 2013
“Demand is increasing, but the automakers deserve credit for doing a much better job of keeping alignment of production and demand,” Humphrey added. “This has led to new-vehicle transaction prices that are averaging nearly $1,000 more in February than the same period in 2012 while incentives have remained relatively flat year over year.”

Total light-vehicle sales in February 2013 are projected to reach 1,176,200 units, a seven per cent increase from February 2012 and the fourth consecutive month with the selling rate at or above 15.2 million units. Fleet share is expected to remain at the January level of 21 per cent.

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons
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The outlook for 2013 continues to improve, as the selling pace remains robust. In fact, LMC Automotive increased its 2013 U.S. forecast for total light-vehicle sales to 15.3 million units from 15.1 million units. The increase is split between fleet and retail light-vehicle sales, with the outlook for retail increasing to 12.5 million units from 12.4 million units.

“The current fundamentals that are driving strong vehicle sales — pent-up vehicle demand and a stable, recovering economy — are expected to get a boost by additional positive factors this year,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “An expected recovery in the housing market, and 50 per cent more new-model launches combined with an increase in lease maturities should keep light-vehicle sales climbing throughout the year.”

North American light-vehicle production in January 2013 finished at more than 1.3 million units, seven per cent higher than in January 2012. Production in Mexico has increased by nearly 21 per cent from January 2012 on higher General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen volumes related to newer launches. U.S. vehicle production has grown by nine per cent from January 2012, while Canadian production has declined by 13 per cent during the same period.

Vehicle inventory levels in early February increased to a 74-day supply, compared with 59 days in January. A higher level is typical in February. However, at the current selling rate, inventory levels are expected to rebalance within the next month or two. Overall, there are nearly 3.1 million units currently available on dealer lots or in transit — an increase of approximately 600,000 units from the same month one year ago.

LMC Automotive’s forecast for North American production will remain at 15.9 million units for this year, a three per cent increase from 2012.

“The current inventory situation and production plan for 2013 suggests that there is enough volume to support the expected increased level of demand, and there remains little risk for an overbuild environment,” said Schuster.

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