Cox Automotive moderates sales forecast for Q4 in the U.S.

New auto sales in the U.S. are “still stuck in low gear,” according to a new forecast by Cox Automotive, which expects that the sales numbers from last month will be mostly unchanged from the previous month. Though the numbers are up from last year, the results are not as strong as many people have been hoping.

The numbers are to be confirmed next week, but September U.S. auto sales are expected to show the new-vehicle market languishing. New-vehicle sales are expected to finish near 1.10 million units, with a SAAR of 13.3 million. The forecast states, “Sales volume in September is expected to show an increase of nearly eight per cent over last year but finish down almost four per cent compared to last month.” The decline compared to last month is mainly attributed to one less selling day.

“New-vehicle sales have been remarkably consistent through the third quarter, with sales of approximately 1.1 million units each month in July, August, and September. New-vehicle inventory has been holding steady, with days’ supply near 40,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive.

Total new-vehicle sales in the third quarter are forecast at 3.4 million units, down less than one per cent from Q3 2021 and down only modestly from the 3.5 million units sold in Q2 2022. Cox reports, “For comparison, sales in Q3 2019 reached 4.3 million. General Motors, Ford and Tesla will be among the biggest gainers year over year in Q3, with many Japanese brands still struggling with inventory issues suffering the largest declines, notably Honda and Nissan.”

It has been one year since the new-vehicle market began experiencing a shortage of inventory. According to the report, inventory levels have slightly improved but remain well below pre-pandemic levels. “The supply shortage has likely created some pent-up demand—folks who were essentially waiting in line for inventory to return. But the recent changes in the economic outlook from rising interest rates is beginning to chip away at demand, and the waiting line for new vehicles is likely getting much shorter,” said Chesbrough.

“With no notable inventory improvement forecast in the fourth quarter and waning new-vehicle demand, Cox Automotive has lowered its full-year forecast to 13.7 million units, down from 14.4 million. Sales in 2022 are projected to finish down more than 9% versus 2021 and at the lowest level in a decade.”

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