J.D. Power: Weather disrupts auto sales, but recovery expected

(February 24, 2014) WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Retail light-vehicle sales in February are showing signs of improvement from January and the first week of this month, according to a monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

Though severe weather in much of the United States during the first half of February disrupted new-vehicle sales, J.D. Power expects the sales pace to increase toward the end of the month, as vehicle buyers who delayed their purchase due to severe weather return to market. Other contributors to an anticipated upswing in sales are the President's Day holiday weekend and the promotional events that accompanied it. 

U.S. Retail SAAR--February 2013 to February 2014 (in millions of units)

February's new-vehicle retail sales, the most accurate measure of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles, are forecasted to reach 972,400 — a 5 percent increase from February 2013 — with the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for retail sales projected to reach 12.7 million.

 "Although severe weather impacted sales in early February, the negative effect should be somewhat mitigated since the majority of vehicle sales occur in the second half of the month," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.
Humphrey also noted that the underlying health of the industry remains strong as seen through a continuation of record average transaction prices.
"The industry is on track to reach its highest-ever average transaction price for the month of February, with prices exceeding $29,000," Humphrey said. "This beats the previous record from February 2013 by more than $400."

J.D. Power also expects consumer spending on new vehicles--the sum of retail sales multiplied by transaction price--to exceed $28.3 billion in February, also the highest for the month and an increase of nearly $1.7 billion from February 2013.

Total light-vehicle sales in February 2014 are projected to reach 1.2 million units, a 3 percent increase from February 2013. Fleet sales are less than 21 percent of total new-vehicle sales, below the February average of more than 22 percent from the previous two years. Fleet sales for the full year are forecasted to account for 17.8 percent of total sales, slightly higher than 2013.