Edmunds predicts 2013 sales to slow, used car prices to fall

(December 28, 2012) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Car sales will grow in 2013, but that growth will slow to a single-digit pace, says Edmunds.com. Edmunds.com projects 15 million new car sales in 2013, a four percent increase over 2012.

And while next year's sales won't have as much momentum as recent post-recession years, there is still plenty of optimism in the auto industry.

"What's especially encouraging is the current competitive strength among the automakers," says Edmunds.com Chief Economist Dr. Lacey Plache in a preview of 2013 auto sales trends. "Consumers will continue to benefit from exciting new models and technologies — and potentially lower prices — as automakers continue to battle for market share."

Other automotive trends that Plache expects to see in 2013 include:

    • Lease Terminations Flood the Market — Edmunds.com projects that there will be as many as 500,000 more car buyers coming off leases in 2013 than in 2012. That's 500,000 more potential new car customers to buttress the remaining pent-up demand.

    • Used Car Prices Softening — Those lease terminations should have a ripple effect on the auto industry especially on used cars. Off-lease vehicles and more trade-ins will flood the used car market and help to bring down prices. Edmunds.com expects the average used car price to fall $200-$300 per vehicle in 2013, which will continue the price drop we saw this year after used car prices peaked in 2011.

    • Housing Resurgence Creates 'Wealth Effect' — Housing prices are starting to rise, and this should continue in 2013. And while that's good news for the economy in general, it spells even more good news for the automotive market. Dr. Plache puts it best: "Rising home prices make consumers feel wealthier, which translates into greater consumer confidence to make large purchases such as a new car."

    • The Year of the Truck — Somebody needs to build those houses, right? And when construction booms, so too does the market for pickup trucks, which are favored by builders and contractors. GM recently unveiled its upcoming line of 2014 Chevy and GMC pickups, which will only push the competitive juices of Ram and Ford. So, while 2012 saw a renaissance in small and midsize cars, there's every indication that in 2013 trucks will regain some their lost market share.

Dr. Plache and Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Michelle Krebs offer a full preview of 2013 auto trends.