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Cox Automotive Forecast: May U.S. Auto Sales Pace Expected to Improve from April’s Slump


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Article Highlights

  1. May 2019 sales volume forecast to reach 1.54 million units, slightly up from last month.
  2. Annual sales pace is expected to rise to 16.9 million units, up from April’s 16.4 million SAAR.
  3. Volatility is impacting new-vehicle sales, including delays in purchasing and aggressive fleet sales.

ATLANTA, May 28, 2019 – Cox Automotive is forecasting May U.S. auto sales to decline nearly 3% from last year, falling to 1.54 million units. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is expected to rise slightly to 16.9 million, above April’s 16.4 million level but below May 2018’s 17.2 million pace.

May is a critical sales month for the industry as it is consistently in the top three for annual volume. A modest rebound in pace is expected as the summer selling season begins. Strong consumer confidence and employment gains continue to provide stable demand for light vehicles; however, affordability issues weigh on the market. Vehicle sales are down nearly 3% so far in 2019, and May sales are expected to follow this downward trend. Cox Automotive expects the vehicle market to return to a modest sales pace in May and continue on a path that ends with total sales of 16.8 million units in 2019, below last year’s total of 17.3 million.

“If sales for the month exceed expectations, it is a strong indicator that a blazing summer sales season is ahead,” said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist, Cox Automotive. “If sales fall below expectations, it may be the clearest signal yet that the market has shifted to a lower gear. It may be difficult to know for sure, though, even after sales results are in as volatility is a new participant in today’s light-vehicle market.”

Volatility Enters New-Vehicle Market
Much like the recent stock market, vehicle sales have experienced some wild swings recently. Over the last six months, the monthly sales pace has had several 1 million-unit swings, which make identifying larger market trends a challenge. December 2018 ended at a 17.5 million pace, which then fell to 16.4 by February. April’s SAAR of 16.4 million was below expectations, particularly on the heels of March’s upside surprise of 17.4 million.

Delays in purchasing caused by severe winter storms and aggressive fleet activity have impacted sales levels. Fleet volume, influenced by significantly increased depreciation allowances, continues to be the largest variable in new-vehicle sales. In addition, ongoing uncertainty around auto tariffs continues to contribute to market volatility.

May 2019 Sales Forecast Highlights

  • New light-vehicle sales are expected to rise 16%, or nearly 215,000 vehicles, versus April 2019.
  • Sales, including fleet, are expected to reach 1.54 million units, down nearly 3%, or 50,000 units, from May 2018.
  • The May 2019 SAAR is forecast to be 16.9 million, up from last month’s surprisingly weak 16.4 million level, and down from last year’s 17.2 million pace. This May has 26 selling days; the same as last May, but the market pace has slowed, which should mean a weaker SAAR.
  • The best sales volume for May occurred in 2015 when nearly 1.63 million new light-vehicles were sold, while the record SAAR of 17.8 million was achieved in 2004.

May 2019 Forecast

Sales Forecast1 Market Share
  May-19 May-18 Apr-19 YOY% MOM% May-19 Apr-19 MOM  
GM 262,000 264,823 231,000* -1.1% 13.4% 17.0% 17.4%* -0.4%
Ford Motor Co 221,000 241,527 194,000* -8.5% 13.8% 14.3% 14.6%* -0.3%
Toyota Motor Co 205,000 215,321 182,463 -4.8% 12.4% 13.3% 13.7% -0.5%
FCA Group 200,000 214,294 172,900 -6.7% 15.7% 13.0% 13.0% -0.1%
American Honda 155,000 153,069 125,775 1.3% 23.2% 10.0% 9.5% 0.6%
Nissan NA 125,000 131,832 95,698 -5.2% 30.6% 8.1% 7.2% 0.9%
Hyundai Kia 128,000 125,518 108,410 2.0% 18.1% 8.3% 8.2% 0.1%
VW 55,000 55,531 51,351 -1.0% 7.1% 3.6% 3.9% -0.3%
Subaru 62,000 60,146 57,288 3.1% 8.2% 4.0% 4.3% -0.3%
Grand Total2 1,543,000 1,593,309 1,327,534 -3.2% 16.2%        


1 May 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 Share
Segment May-19 May-18 Apr-19 YOY% MOM% May-19 Apr-19 MOM
Mid-Size Car 130,000 147,376 112,473 -11.8% 15.6% 8.4% 8.5% 0.0%
Compact Car 160,000 180,381 123,272 -11.3% 29.8% 10.4% 9.3% 1.1%
Compact SUV/Crossover 280,000 285,474 232,206 -1.9% 20.6% 18.1% 17.5% 0.7%
Full-Size Pickup Truck 220,000 216,867 190,276 1.4% 15.6% 14.3% 14.3% -0.1%
Mid-Size SUV/Crossover 235,000 229,948 207,600 2.2% 13.2% 15.2% 15.6% -0.4%
Grand Total2 1,543,000 1,593,309 1,327,534 -3.2% 16.2%      


1 Cox Automotive Industry Insights data
2 Total includes segments not shown
All percentages are based on raw volume, not daily selling rate.

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 countries 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

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