Kelley Blue Books sees strong start to 2013 new-car sales

(January 30, 2013) IRVINE, Calif. — As January comes to a close, analysts predict that new-car sales are positioned to surpass 15.1 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), marking a 13 percent year-over-year improvement, according to Kelley Blue Book.

"January tends to be the slowest month of the year, largely due to a significant number of buyers who purchase new cars in December to take advantage of year-end clearance events," said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book.

"Although the deals available in January typically are not as attractive as they are in December, consumers should have little trouble finding a great price on the vehicle of their choosing this month."

According to Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price data, new vehicles are selling for 94 percent of MSRP on average, which is in line with prices seen last year. In addition to affordable pricing, inventory levels are very good for most makes and models. 

As of January 1, there was a 59-days supply of vehicles available for sale at dealerships nationwide, which is slightly better than the 52-days supply available in January 2012. Affordable financing also remains widely available, even for subprime borrowers. In fact, according to Experian's Q3 State of Automotive Financing webinar, the average credit score for a new-car loan decreased by 8 points year-over-year, indicating that auto lenders are opening up credit to additional buyers.

Kelley Blue Book expects solid gains for all automakers in January 2013.  The most significant year-over-year increases will continue to come from Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen, with each brand expected to see a year-over-year increase of 20 percent or more.

"The Honda Accord, CR-V and Civic are expected to remain at the top of their respective categories, thanks to fresh redesigns last year, which should help to push Honda sales up around 25 percent," said Gutierrez. 

"Toyota is expected to increase an equally impressive 22 percent this month in large part to its Camry, Corolla and Prius family of vehicles. The redesigned 2013 RAV4 is just starting to arrive at dealerships and will not play a significant role in January's sales total; however, it could help give Toyota additional momentum in the months ahead."

Among the domestic manufacturers, Kelley Blue Book anticipates Ford to post the greatest gains with a nearly 16 percent increase from this time last year.  Annual gains will be most pronounced for the Ford Focus, Fusion and Escape, as each were redesigned last year.