Total light vehicle, (LV) sales in January were at an annual rate, of 17.349 M units, down 0.805 million (M) from December and down 0.878 M year on year (y/y). Light truck sales continue to record strong sales of 11.028 M in January, flat y/y. Over the same timeframe, auto (car) sales fell 12.6% y/y to 6.321 M.
Figure 1 compares US sales of cars and light trucks on the same chart. Trucks are trending up, cars are trending down. On a 3 month moving average (3MMA) basis y/y through January, LV sales of domestically produced autos fell 8.6% as imports increased by 2.5%, 3MMA y/y. Import market-share for cars averaged 26.0% over the last 12 months but increased over the last two months reaching 30.2% in January. Domestically produced light trucks rose by 7.7%, 3MMA y/y. Import market-share for light trucks averaged 18.9% over the last 12 months, peaking in the summer months at 25.4%, and then falling in successive months to realize 16.4% in January. Figure 2 presents a picture of total light vehicle sales on a 3MMA basis from 2010 to present. The left-hand axis shows annualized sales 3MMA y/y. The percentage change 3MMA y/y, is presented on the right-hand axis. Annualized sales peaked in November 2015 at 18.506 M units. From that point sales declined for several months bottoming out in August 2016 at 17.537 M units. Since then sales have rebounded ending 2016 at 18.183 M units. On an overall basis, sales continue to chug along at healthy rate and this trend is expected to continue.
Figure 3 looks at the sales of medium and heavy truck sales (>14,001 Lbs.). Not a pretty picture as sales have fallen from the recent high water mark of 0.470 M units in August 2015, falling to 0.378 M units in January. Sales have been down in percentage y/y terms for nine consecutive months. On a positive note, sales bottomed in October 2016 and have slowly started to pick-up.
Ward’s Automotive reported that total light vehicle inventories in the US were 74 days at the end of February, down from 85 in December and up from 69 days in February last year.
At Gerdau, we monitor production and sales of light, medium and heavy vehicles since they consume a tremendous amount of engineered steel. In addition, the health of the automotive industry offers an important gauge on the overall strength of the US economy.