Auto Sales Looking Up In Down Economy

Honda-Accord-BAs the economy slouches toward Bethlehem, August may actually turn out to be strong month for new-vehicle sales, per industry seers trying to figure out, near the month's finish line, where the chips are likely to fall. Santa Monica, Calif.-based, a new-car shopping, pricing, trends and forecasting site, predicts that 1,255,400 new cars and trucks will get delivered, which would represent a 17.2% jump from the month last year, and a 8.9% improvement from last month.

Spread that out over the year, adjusting for seasonal differences, and you get a 14.2 million-unit year -- way up from the 12.1 million that last August would have represented. 

Ignoring fleet sales -- automakers' sales of light vehicles to the rental car companies and other businesses -- sales are up 14.3% and 9.7% versus July. TrueCar points out that fleet and rental sales are looking to be about 18% of total industry sales this month. 



How much money automakers are throwing on the hood to move that metal is important, since resale value depends to a great extent on how much discounting was involved in the purchase. It is also a critical component to discerning the health of the market -- since if a lot of those cars are getting sold because they are getting hefty incentives, something isn't that strong and it's either economic fundamentals or the auto brand's equity. 

There's some good news on that front as well, as TrueCar predicts the industry average incentive spend per unit will be approximately $2,460 this month -- a decrease of 6% from last year, and 2% from July. The firm's predictions are based on actual dealership transaction data. 

The growth numbers evince comeback performances by Honda and Toyota at the expense of the domestic makes. Honda sales are looking to be about 62% higher than August last year, and Toyota may see over 41% more sales than the month last year. The other brand that is booming globally -- Volkswagen -- will garner a 33% improvement, give or take. Hyundai and Kia will also be above industry average at about a 17.6% improvement. Ford and Chrysler are looking at about a 9.5% improvement, Nissan a 6% increase in sales versus last year and GM about 4%. 

“While the overall economy remains at a standstill, auto sales continue to be strong as August marks the third straight month of SAAR [seasonal annual adjusted rate of sales] over 14 million,” said Jesse Toprak, VP Market Intelligence for TrueCar. “Domestics continue to lose market share as the strength of the Japanese recovery continues. Volkswagen is quietly becoming a serious player whose growth can’t be ignored.”

Kristen Andersson, senior analyst at the firm, says incentive spending -- the lowest for the year -- has decreased for the fourth consecutive month. “Automakers continue to optimize incentives and spend less dollars-wise despite the big push this month to sell down inventory on older models.”

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