IRVINE, Calif. — Kelley Blue Book projects the annual sales rate to hit 13.9 million units in June, which would be a slight improvement from the 13.8 million-unit pace posted in May 2012. 


The vehicle information site’s prediction for June SAAR is well below the 14.5 million-unit pace for the first four months of the year. The daily selling rate will fall to 47,000 units per day, which is 8 percent below the four-year high in May and up 16 percent from June 2011.


Despite the predicted decline for June, sales remain strong thanks to a steady flow of demand from consumers in need of a replacement vehicle. According to the Q1 Consumer Sentiment survey conducted by Kelley Blue Book’s Market Intelligence team, the average new-car shopper owned an eight-year-old vehicle with just over 85,000 miles. 


“It’s a buyer’s market right now, with consumers flocking to the Internet and dealerships upon news of low interest rates across the board, ample credit availability for subprime borrowers, attractive cash incentives on vehicles in every category, and compelling new redesigns and introductions,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book. “Although sales are expected to decline from May’s high, the expected drop is just part of the normal seasonal pattern.” 


Since 2007, the daily selling rate has dropped between 3 and 10 percent from May to June, putting the expected 8 percent decline well within the historical and seasonal range from the past five years. Looking at the rest of 2012, KBB believes SAAR will remain in the mid to high 13 million unit range through summer and then jump above 14 million in the fall, as 2013 models become available and incentive spending increases on 2012 model-year vehicles. 


The site also expects light-vehicle sales to top 14 million units in 2012, but did note signs that the current global economic slowdown may curtail future growth.


Toyota and Honda sales are expected to improve 70 and 50 percent, respectively, on a year-over-year basis, primarily due to each brand’s enhanced inventory from one year ago. Although raw sales numbers are well above figures from last year, Toyota and Honda have been able to gain market share on the strength of their latest redesigns. The 2012 Toyota Camry dominates sales in the red-hot mid-size category, while the redesigned Honda Civic and CR-V have been at the top of their respective segments during the past few months, according to KBB. 


General Motors and Ford will continue to occupy the top two positions in the U.S. sales race with a nearly 7 percent year-over-year gain expected for each manufacturer. Sales by the top two domestic manufacturers have been aided by a higher fleet penetration relative to their Japanese counterparts. Approximately one-third of all new General Motors, Ford and Chrysler vehicles sold today are sold to fleet buyers, significantly above the 10 percent fleet penetration of Toyota and Nissan, not to mention the miniscule 2 percent fleet penetration from Honda. 

In terms of retail sales volume, General Motors has maintained the top position through the first five months of this year, followed by Toyota, Ford and Honda, respectively. 


“Toyota has occupied the top position in monthly retail sales volume in the United States twice this year, and we expect it to continue to gun for the No. 1 position in the United States moving forward,” Gutierrez said. “In addition, we expect to see a boost in Ford’s retail sales volume in the months ahead, especially with the arrival of its redesigned 2013 Escape and Fusion. Each of these vehicles will be among the most fuel efficient in their respective classes, enticing consumers seeking to minimize fuel expenses.”