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Cox Automotive Forecast: April U.S. Auto Sales Pace to Cool from March’s Surprise


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Article Highlights

  1. April 2019 volume forecast to reach 1.37 million units, a 15% decrease from last month.
  2. Annual sales pace is expected to drop to 16.9 million units, down from March’s 17.5 SAAR.
  3. Retail sales expected to remain soft, buoyed in part by stronger fleet sales.

ATLANTA, April 25, 2019 – Following surprisingly-high March sales, Cox Automotive is forecasting April U.S. auto sales to cool off to 1.37 million units, a 1% increase over last year’s volume. However, because the number of selling days increases from 24 last April to 26 this year, the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales is expected to decline to 16.9 million units, down from April 2018’s pace of 17.2 million and last month’s strong 17.5 million pace.

Headwinds from higher interest rates, high vehicle prices and modest incentives are expected to guide the market toward a lower level than last year. Cox Automotive expects the vehicle market to return to a more modest sales pace in April and continue on a sales path that is below last year’s 17.3 million to finish near 16.8 million in 2019.

“March’s SAAR of 17.5 million was a big surprise for industry analysts,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist, Cox Automotive. “Most market watchers were expecting the sales pace last month to continue at the mid-16 million level seen in January and February. However, delayed purchasing from a severe winter and aggressive fleet activity lifted March sales much higher than expected.”

Fleet Buoys New-Vehicle Sales
The largest variable in April, and throughout 2019, is fleet volume. Sales of both commercial and rental fleet vehicles have been on the increase, and this trend is likely to continue throughout 2019. Total fleet sales increased nearly 8% in 2018 versus year-earlier levels while retail sales decreased 1%. This trend toward more fleet, less retail is continuing this year.

One key contributing factor to the strength in fleet sales may be changes in tax law resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Depreciation allowances for business-use vehicles were increased significantly by the new laws and, as a result, more fleet activity and business-use vehicle purchases are likely to continue in 2019 as more businesses consider the full benefits of the tax changes.

April 2019 Sales Forecast Highlights

  • New light-vehicle sales volume is forecast to decrease by nearly 250,000 vehicles versus March, down 15%.
  • Sales, including fleet, are expected to reach 1.37 million units, up 1% from April 2018.
  • The April 2019 SAAR is forecast to be 16.9 million, down from last year’s 17.2 million pace and down from last month’s surprising 17.5 million level. This month features 26 selling days, 2 more than last April, which is the key factor for why sales volume can increase while the sales pace decrease.
  • Record volume for April occurred in 2005, with sales of 1.5 million and a SAAR of 17.3 million.

April 2019 Forecast

Sales Forecast1 Market Share
  Apr-19 Apr-18 Mar-19 YOY% MOM% Apr-19 Mar-19 MOM
GM 235,000 237,552 284,000* -1.1% -17.2% 17.2%* 17.5%* -0.4%
Ford Motor Co 190,000 203,856 230,000* -6.8% -17.5% 13.9%* 14.2%* -0.3%
Toyota Motor Co 190,000 192,353 214,947 -1.2% -11.6% 13.9% 13.3% 0.6%
FCA Group 180,000 184,149 200,307 -2.3% -10.1% 13.1% 12.4% 0.8%
American Honda 125,000 125,701 148,509 -0.6% -15.8% 9.1% 9.2% 0.0%
Nissan NA 105,000 87,764 150,768 19.6% -30.4% 7.7% 9.3% -1.6%
Hyundai Kia 105,000 106,648 118,441 -1.5% -11.3% 7.7% 7.3% 0.4%
VW 54,000 53,468 62,173 1.0% -13.1% 3.9% 3.8% 0.1%
Subaru 54,000 53,170 61,601 1.6% -12.3% 3.9% 3.8% 0.1%
Grand Total2 1,370,000 1,355,860 1,621,551 1.0% -15.5%      

1 April 2019 Cox Automotive Industry Insights Forecast; all historical data from OEM sales announcements
2 Total includes brands not shown
* GM and Ford monthly sales are estimated

Sales Forecast1 Market Share1
Segment Apr-19 Apr-18 Mar-19 YOY% MOM% Apr-19 Mar-19 MOM
Mid-Size Car 110,000 114,829 138,701 -4.2% -20.7% 8.0% 8.6% -0.5%
Compact Car 140,000 147,472 154,240 -5.1% -9.2% 10.2% 9.5% 0.7%
Compact SUV/Crossover 240,000 237,248 274,677 1.2% -12.6% 17.5% 16.9% 0.6%
Full-Size Pickup Truck 180,000 187,025 206,257 -3.8% -12.7% 13.1% 12.7% 0.4%
Mid-Size SUV/Crossover 215,000 203,043 256,692 5.9% -16.2% 15.7% 15.8% -0.1%
Grand Total2 1,370,000 1,355,860 1,621,551 1.0% -15.5%    


1 Cox Automotive Industry Insights data
2 Total includes segments not shown

All percentages are based on raw volume, not daily selling rate.

Cox Automotive Mid-Year Auto Sales Conference Call
The Cox Automotive Industry Insights team will host a conference call on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Details of the time and call-in numbers will be confirmed next month. During the call, the team will discuss key economic indicators driving the auto market, review the forecast, and offer analysis of new- and used-vehicle sales for Q2 and the first half.

About Cox Automotive
Cox Automotive Inc. makes buying, selling, owning and using cars easier for everyone. The global company’s 34,000-plus team members and family of brands, including Autotrader®, Clutch Technologies, Dealer.com®, Dealertrack®, Kelley Blue Book®, Manheim®, NextGear Capital®, VinSolutions®, vAuto® and Xtime®, are passionate about helping millions of car shoppers, 40,000 auto dealer clients across five continents and many others throughout the automotive industry thrive for generations to come. Cox Automotive is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises Inc., a privately-owned, Atlanta-based company with revenues exceeding $20 billion. www.coxautoinc.com

Media Contacts:
Mark Schirmer
734 883 6346

Dara Hailes
470 658 0656

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