Robust early auto sales pointing industry in direction of roaring-good year

April showered the auto industry with sales.

OK. Not as much as March. But more robust than April 2014, indeed, the strongest April in a decade. Last month also finished off a four-month stretch the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2001.

And the good news doesn’t end there. If industry analysts are correct, automakers will sell more than 17 million vehicles this year, making 2015 the sixth consecutive year of increasing sales. A streak like that hasn’t happened in almost a century (The Roaring Twenties).

Photo: timesunion.com

Photo: timesunion.com

“Overall, auto sales remain strong, a trend that is sustainable throughout 2015 due to consumer demand that is being fueled by 50 new or redesigned models in showrooms this year,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

“High year-over-year growth will become more challenging over the next few months,” Schuster said. “But a slip in growth rates doesn’t change the underlying positive trend.”

“April isn’t traditionally the hottest sales month … as many consumers delay purchases until the summer selling season – a boom time for many car companies,” reported The Wall Street Journal. The period of May through August represents four of the top six months of the year for auto sales.

In April, General Motors Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles all reported healthy sales growth of around 6 percent, while Ford Motor Co. reported a 5.4 percent increase. (Only Toyota among the biggest automakers didn’t perform up to expectations with a 1.8 percent gain.)

Photo: jeeprenegadeforum.com

Photo: jeeprenegadeforum.com

The boom is being led by “an incredible appetite” for crossovers, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for TrueCar, Inc., car-buying-and-selling marketplace. “Automakers with strong light truck offerings continue to gain [over other manufacturers].”

Light trucks, including crossovers, SUVs and pickups comprise about 56 percent of the light vehicle market, up from 52 percent in April 2005, the last time sales for the month were close to this year.

The continuing surge in sales, especially SUVs, has been particularly good for Fiat Chrysler.

“We launched the spring selling season with nine vehicle sales records and a 6 percent year-over-year increase that extends our sales streak to 61 consecutive months of sales gains,” said Reid Bigland of FCA. “Our new Jeep Renegade small SUV is off to an exceptional start with more than 4,200 units sold in its first full month in the market helping to propel our Jeep brand to its best monthly sales ever.”

Results like that have at least some in the industry seeming positively giddy at the prospects.

“If you’re not having fun in this business today,” Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president for U.S. automotive operations, told Automotive News, “you’re never going to.”

Photo: businessinsider.com

Photo: businessinsider.com

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