WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — J.D. Power and LMC Automotive expect retail sales in September to surpass their predicted 12 percent increase, with the two firms projecting sales to reach 952,200 units

If that prediction holds true, the industry will record a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 11.8 million units, topping September 2011’s SAAR by more than a million units.

“Retail sales in early September were 15 percent higher than they were a year ago, which is reflective of a healthy market,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “We expect retail sales to level off through the rest of the month, but still maintain a strong share of total sales.”

Most major segments — with the exception of the midsize utility and large pickup segments — are expected to show year-over-year retail sales gains in September. The sub-compact conventional, compact conventional and midsize conventional segments should show retail sales gains of at least 25 percent vs. a year ago.

U.S. Retail SAAR—September 2011 to September 2012

Total light-vehicle sales in September are expected to increase 11 percent from September 2011, with volume at more than 1.15 million units. With vehicle inventory levels in check, fleet sales in September are projected to reach 200,400 units, a slight increase from September 2011. If the prediction holds true, fleet sales will represent 17 percent of total light-vehicle sales.

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons


September 20121

August 2012

September 2011

New-Vehicle Retail Sales

952,200 units

(12% higher than September 2011)

1,093,675 units

853,538 units

Total Vehicle Sales

1,152,700 units

(11% higher than September 2011)

1,283,046 units

1,050,985 units

Retail SAAR

11.8 million units

12.6 million units

 10.5 million units

Total SAAR

14.5 million units

14.5 million units

13.1 million units

1Figures cited for September 2012 are forecasted based on the first 14 selling days of the month.

LMC Automotive is maintaining its 2012 full-year outlook for total light-vehicle sales, which it puts at 14.3 million units. As for retail sales alone, the firm revised its forecast upward from 11.4 million units to 11.6 million. Looking ahead to 2013, a higher level of uncertainty is impacting overall volume growth, but LMC’s forecast remains at 15 million units for total light-vehicles and 12.3 million for retail sales.

“Consumer willingness or need to overlook the economic uncertainty is the driving force behind the recent strength in light-vehicle sales,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “During the next few months, car buyers will be processing further economic news, additional details on the European crisis, as well as the forthcoming presidential election, likely creating an environment with higher volatility.”

Throughout the first eight months of 2012, North American light-vehicle production volume has posted consistently strong performance, up 22 percent from the same period in 2011. Nearly 1.9 million additional vehicles have been manufactured in 2012, which shows the remarkable recovery from the challenged production environment in 2011.

Japanese manufacturers have experienced a 49 percent production volume increase year to date, signaling a complete recovery in inventory levels from the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Manufacturers in the United States have increased production nearly 10 percent thus far in 2012, while European production has increased 31 percent.

On a country basis, U.S. manufacturing growth is outpacing the rest of the North American region, with a 25 percent year-to-date increase, which is driven by new capacity. Mexico production is up 14 percent, with further growth expected as new key models ramp up. Canadian manufacturing has increased 20 percent year to date, but volume for the remainder of the year is at risk, as U.S. manufacturers and the Canadian Auto Workers union continue labor negotiations.

Vehicle inventory in early September climbed slightly to a 57-day supply, compared with 54 days in August. However, car inventory remains at a below-normal level with a 50-day supply, up from 47 days in August. Truck inventory is holding at a 64-day supply, up slightly from 61 days in August.

"Production volume continues its torrent pace as the fourth quarter comes into light, which is great financial news for automotive suppliers, but the overall level is edging toward capacity constraints with various vehicle components," said Schuster.

"Downward risk also exists, with the ongoing CAW labor negotiations creating a potential impact on production levels across the region.”

Based on the strength to date and the expected risks, the 2012 North American production forecast now rounds to 15 million units (from 14.9 million in the previous forecast), a 14 percent increase from 2011.


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