April new-car volume to be highest in history, Kelley predicts

(April 28, 2016) IRVINE, Calif. — New-vehicle sales are expected to increase 4 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.51 million units in April, resulting in an estimated 17.5 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to Kelley Blue Book kbb.com.  April sales could report the highest April volume ever, surpassing the previous record of 1.5 million units in April 2005.

"Following a disappointing March, we expect sales to get back on track in April with SAAR in the mid-17 million range," said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. 

"Increased fleet sales and rising incentive spending among automakers remain the factors to watch, but retail demand appears to be holding steady, signaling the industry's strong run isn't over quite yet."

Key Highlights for Estimated April 2016 Sales Forecast:

    • In April new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are expected to hit 1,510,000 units, up 4 percent from April 2015 and down 5 percent from March 2016.

    • The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for April is estimated to be 17.5 million, up from 16.7 million in April 2015 and up from 16.5 million in March 2016.

    • Retail sales are expected to account for 80.3 percent of volume in April, down from 80.9 percent in April 2015.

Following a month above 10 percent market share, Nissan North America is poised to maintain momentum in April with projected double-digit sales volume gains.  Helping enable this growth, and in contrast to most automakers, Nissan's car lineup has driven more sales growth than its SUVs this year, led by the redesigned Maxima and the refreshed Sentra.  Both models should show solid improvement in April.

"American Honda is another manufacturer with sales lifted by its car models more than utility vehicles," said Fleming. "In particular, the all-new Civic continues to do well and is positioned to break 30,000 sales in April, a figure made all the more impressive considering Civic has one of the lowest incentive levels in the compact car segment."

Although still expected to slightly lose overall market share, mid-size cars are likely to have a decent showing in April, boosted by the all-new Chevrolet Malibu, the refreshed Nissan Altima, and a push from the Hyundai Sonata.  Sales in this segment have been weak this year, down 2 percent year-to-date, as consumers opt for similarly priced crossover SUVs.

With only 5 percent projected growth, sales in the compact SUV and crossover segment may appear to have cooled in April, but this is due to some vehicle categorization shifts in Kelley Blue Book's data, particularly the recognition of the subcompact SUV and crossover segment that emerged last year.  This segment grew rapidly to nearly 2 percent of the market, and will continue to grow as consumers gain awareness of these new models.