It could be a wild sleigh ride later this month, but preliminary data show that the U.S. December new-vehicle retail sales trend is significantly higher than “two-handed” economists predicted, setting the stage for a 2011 comeback for the U.S. auto industry.
December new-vehicle retail sales are expected to come in at 936,300 units, which means seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 10.8 million units, the highest of the year. December retail sales are expected to be up 19% from one year ago.
Retail transactions are considered to be the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles, since discounted fleet sales are at the whim of automakers – historically 21% of the industry and currently at 30% or more at the resurgent Detroit Three.
“Even with the possibility that sales in the third week of December may be affected by the recent winter storms, the strength in sales during the second week is expected to continue through the rest of the month,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates. “As a result, it appears that 2010 will end on a high note.”
Total light-vehicle sales for December are expected to come in at 1,133,000 units, which is 14% higher than December 2009. Fleet sales are projected to decrease in December, with volume expected below 200,000 units—down 3% from December 2009. Fleet share of total sales in December is expected to be at 17%, the lowest level all year.