Retail sales pace recaptures lost momentum, J.D. Power says

(September 23, 2010) New-vehicle retail sales in September are expected to recover from the tumultuous summer selling season and post a significant selling rate increase, compared with August, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which gathers real-time transaction data from more than 8,900 retail franchisees throughout the United States.

September new-vehicle retail sales are expected to come in at 769,000 units, which represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 9.7 million units. September’s retail selling rate is expected to be the highest in more than two years, excluding the CARS-influenced August 2009 rate. Retail transactions are the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.

“The vigorous start to September is an indication that vehicle buyers delayed some of their purchases in late August, and were most likely waiting for Labor Day sales and hoping for increases in vehicle availability,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates.

U.S. Retail SAAR from September 2009 to September 20101
(in millions of units)



1SAARs for 2010 are revised based on new seasonals from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Total light-vehicle sales for September are expected to come in at 961,500 units, 29 percent higher than September 2009, which was impacted by the expiration of the CARS program. Fleet sales in September are tracking at an increase of 8 percent from September 2009, representing a 20 percent share of total sales.

J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons


September 20102

August 2010

September 2009

New-vehicle retail sales

769,000 units
(36% higher than September 2009)

816,636 units

565,446 units

Total vehicle sales

961,500 units
(29% higher than September 2009)

995,180 units

744,161 units

Retail SAAR

9.7 million units

8.4 million units

7.2 million units

Total SAAR

11.8 million units

11.4 million units

9.2 million units

2Figures cited for September 2010 are forecasted based on the first 15 selling days of the month.

Sales Outlook
After two months of mixed indicators resulting in downward revisions to the vehicle sales outlook, J.D. Power and Associates is holding its 2010 forecast at 9.2 million units for retail sales and 11.6 million units for total sales.

“The strength in the first half of September is exactly what the industry has been looking for to begin a more measurable recovery through the remainder of the year with continued progress into 2011,” said Schuster. “The expected increase in vehicle availability should provide relief in the coming months as many 2011 models hit the showrooms, but the industry’s attention will remain on the economic indicators to gauge the level of recovery.”

J.D. Power’s 2011 forecast remains at 10.7 million units for retail sales and 13.2 million units for total sales. However, given the volatility in both the economy and consumer demand, there remains a moderate level of risk of a weaker selling rate in 2011.

North American Production
After a sharp increase during the first half of 2010, North American production continues to be balanced with demand. Light-vehicle production in the fourth quarter is expected to come in at 2.8 million units, an increase of nearly 3 percent from the same period in 2009. Full-year 2010 production is forecasted to be up 36 percent compared with 2009, totaling 11.7 million units. Capacity utilization improves to 66 percent this year, compared with 48 percent in 2009. Further improvement is expected in 2011, with production volume projected at 12.7 million units and capacity utilization at 72 percent.

U.S. inventory levels have been well-maintained in 2010. Days supply at the beginning of September was 52 days, and remained unchanged from August. This level is well above the 29-day supply in September 2009, which was significantly depleted as a result of the CARS program, but remains below the industry norm of 60 days.

“The recovery in North American production will finish 2010 by well outpacing the sales recovery, but the production increase in 2011 will not be as pronounced, as inventories are expected to be replenished and stable next year,” said Schuster. “However, there are still availability shortages with some key models, which may impact demand during the remainder of 2010.”