What car sales data says about anticipated results for 2014 – and after

car salesThis year isn’t over yet, but there already is enough car-sales data on record to gauge the year’s winners and losers.

Overall new-automobile sales were up 5 percent over 2013 through September, and are expected to reach 6 percent for the year as a whole, according to LMC Automotive.

Fiat-Chrysler has been a surprisingly good performer, with sales up about 16 percent year over year, according to LMCA, and Subaru also continues to outperform the rest of the industry. Mitsubishi will finish up 18 percent for the year, but still is struggling to regain the market position it formerly held. Ford will be down slightly for 2014, LMCA predicts, as the F-150 changeover hurt volumes.

In terms of sales within vehicle classes this year, LMCA made the following observations:

  • SUVs – 28.2 percent share of the market, up 1.2 percent in 2014. Non-premium SUVs gain share on weakening compact demand.
  • D-segment (larger or family vehicles) – 15.3 percent share, down 0.3 percent, contracting on SUV demand.
  • Pickup – 13.3 percent share, down 0.4 percent. Pickup segment is a battleground.
  • Premium – 12.2 percent share, up 0.1 percent. Premium holds share.
  • Sporty – 3.0 percent share, up 0.2 percent. Sporty cars are back

LMCA also considered the future in terms of what generations might want. It considered three key classes of car-buyers: Baby boomers, Gen Y/millennials and Gen Z. There is no precise agreement on dates for Gen Z, but the term generally applies to people born in the mid to late 1990s and later.

Baby boomers are delaying retirement due to the Great Recession, and many want to continue working for some time, or even restart their careers on their own terms. That might mean baby boomers will continue to purchase cars, albeit smaller ones, LMCA reports.

Gen Y or millennials were hit hard by the recession and experienced a delay in reaching life goals compared to previous generations. Student loans and slowed job growth may negatively affect their decision to invest in vehicles.

Gen Z are nonconforming buyers that are deeply immersed in mobile and social communication technology. According to LMCA, they show more individualism as consumers than Gen Y, and demand customization beyond what car manufacturers are currently prepared to deliver.

With gas prices remaining low, SUVs are expected to continue gaining share of the market in 2015 – but those pesky Gen Z buyers may think those cars are what mom and dad drive.

– Philip Ryan

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