After Ford reported a 9 percent drop in second quarter profits last week, industry analysts were scared that car sales might slow down after years of prosperity. Now we have official U.S. sales numbers from July, and they seem to show that the industry has indeed reached a plateau.
Automotive News has July sales numbers for every major automaker in the U.S. besides Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche. Because the automakers missing from the report are low-volume marques, the news site’s current figures give a good indication of the overall industry trend for July 2016, showing that sales seem to be slowing. Which makes sense—we’ve seen years and years of record new car sales in America. That has to end at some point.
July 2016 sales for the industry were up only 0.4 percent compared to July of last year, and the first seven months of 2016 only surpassed the same period last year by a measly 1 percent.
That’s enough for Kelley Blue Book analyst Akshay Anand to assert that car industry sales are flattening out, as he told Automotive News:
It’s clear the industry is plateauing, as we’re now seeing signs of SUVs slowing down for several brands, while sedans continue to struggle...With incentives continuing to rise faster than ATPs, combined with slowing growth, the industry is in a tricky spot.
This “plateauing” of car sales has been a concern from analysts, particularly after Ford’s gloomy second quarter profits dropped last week.
As Ford boss Mark Fields said, emphasis mine:
We’re seeing more pressure throughout the business for the remainder of this year, so as a result, we’re calling for the second half of this year, and particularly the third quarter, to be much weaker than normal.
The report went on to cite a Wall Street analyst who said Ford’s announcement could be a “‘watershed’ moment for the industry” after months of post-recession sales growth.
We don’t know if these July 2016 sales numbers are going to be considered a “watershed” moment, but the July 2015 versus July 2016 numbers across the board seem to be either small incremental increases or in the negatives.
Company July 2015 July 2016 Percent Increase Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 181,081 181,538 0.30% Ford Motor Company 222,014 215,268 -3.00% General Motors 272,512 267,258 -1.90% Mazda North America 27,157 27,915 2.80% Honda Motor Co. 146,324 152,799 4.40% Nissan North America 130,872 132,475 1.20% Tesla Motors (estimated) 2,100 2,250 7.10% Toyota Motor Sales USA 217,181 214,233 -1.40% VW Group of America 49,246 47,373 -3.80% Hyundai 127,324 134,972 6.0% BMW of North America 32,259 30,653 –5.0% Mercedes-Benz USA 30,130 32,288 7.20% Subaru Of America 50,517 52,093 3.10% Volvo Car USA 5,619 8,584 52.80% Mitsubishi Motors North America 7,868 7,890 0.30%
Some analysts think the additional weekend in July this year, as well as holiday promotions and more incentives are what drove volume this July beyond its “organic demand.”
Automotive News says the auto industry’s “winning streak [is] at risk,” citing some analysts who think “decline in used-vehicle prices, spurred by an increase in off-lease vehicles, will... undermine new-vehicle sales in coming months.”
It will be interesting to see how August and September numbers look—only then will we truly know if July 2016 really is a turning point in demand for cars in the U.S.