December Sales Momentum May Mean Record Sales

2015 is on pace to set a new, all-time sales record in the United States. Retail and fleet light-vehicle sales are coming in strong as the year moves to a close.

2016 Toyota Tacoma.
2016 Toyota Tacoma.

December is shaping up as yet another strong month for auto sales. Mild weather across much of the country has been helping as well as continued low interest rates on consumer loans despite a recent, but nominal increase in lending rates. If the sales pace continues unabated, 2015 will go down as the best year ever for US sales, breaking the previous record established in 2000.

Those are the findings of a forecast developed jointly by LMC Automotive and J.D. Power. LMC is a noted supplier of automotive trends and intelligence; J.D. Power is a global marketing services company serving multiple fields, including automotive.

Within Reach: 17.5 Million Units

New light-vehicle sales for the month are expected to be the best we have seen for any month since 2005. That should allow U.S. sales to top 17.5 million units, surpassing the previous 17.4 million units reached in 2000. Retail sales (consumer or non-fleet) are expected to total 14.3 million units, representing the fourth best year in history.

Two more factors are also weighing in this year: December has five selling weekends, the first time since 2012, and will also have 28 selling days, the most since 2009. The selling days include the first few days of the new year as 2015 calendar year sales will include sales made through Jan. 4, 2016.

“As 2015 comes to a close, the industry is expected to post its strongest sales month of the year,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “With continued record transaction prices, consumers are on pace to spend more than $44 billion on new vehicles in December and $437 billion on new vehicles in 2015, both record levels.” The previous record of $407 billion in annual consumer expenditure was set in 2014.

Humphrey also addressed the recent 0.25 percent increase in the Federal Reserve’s interest rate stating that it “…should have minimal impact on new-vehicle sales.”

Strong Fleet Sales

Fleet sales have been strong this year and have been making a significant contribution to this year’s sales pace. Data reveals that fleet sales were much stronger than expected in November, accounting for 19.5 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales. This month, that contribution is expected to drop to 18.2 percent.

LMC remains bullish on 2016 U.S. auto sales. The company has forecast 17.8 million total light-duty vehicle units, including 14.6 million retail sales. That forecast aligns with what other experts have been saying.

Stated Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, “We now have greater confidence that record sales in 2015 will lead to yet another volume record in 2016. The year-over-year growth rate is projected to be one-third of the growth experienced in 2015, but total and retail light-vehicle sales are at a 2% increase in 2016, keeping the expansion going.”

Extensive Research Can Save You Money

For consumers shopping for a new vehicle, extensive research, including visits to dealer websites can save them money. Most new vehicles sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars below the window sticker price with greater savings achieved through aggressive negotiation. Arranging your own financing and taking manufacturer and dealer discounts instead can lower your overall costs.

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Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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