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Cox Automotive Forecast: Fewer Selling Days Leads to Expected Volume Drop, Outlook Remains Good


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Article Highlights

  1. With five fewer selling days, a large sales volume drop is expected in September with volume forecast at 1.25 million units.
  2. Annual vehicle sales pace remains steady and is forecast to reach 16.9 million units in September, down slightly from August’s 17.0 million level.
  3. Looking ahead, Cox Automotive confirms its forecast of a 16.8 million SAAR for 2019.

ATLANTA, Sept. 26, 2019 – Cox Automotive is forecasting September U.S. new-vehicle sales volume to finish at 1.25 million, falling nearly 14% from last September, or close to 200,000 units. With five fewer selling days, the forecast volume drop is close to 400,000 units compared to August. Although sales volume is certain to decline in September, the selling pace remains steady due to an abnormal seasonality adjustment. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) is expected to remain relatively stable at 16.9 million, just below last month’s 17.0 million pace.

The Labor Day holiday is one of the biggest selling periods for the industry. Therefore, the timing of Labor Day weekend – falling in August or September – can make or break the monthly sales results. This year, Labor Day weekend was included with August sales, giving the month 28 selling days and the robust holiday weekend. This resulted in August being the highest sales volume month of the year and the third-highest month since the Great Recession. At the same time, the adjustment on the calendar will also result in September’s volume falling dramatically. There are only 23 selling days this September, the lowest number since November 2015, and this will result in a low monthly sales total.

According to Cox Automotive Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough: “Cox Automotive expects sales volume this month to fall to the lowest level since the cold days of February. It will also be the worst September since 2014. However, and importantly, the large volume decline overstates the actual health of the market. The SAAR is expected to reflect a much more stable market. After adjustment, the SAAR is likely to finish at 16.9 million, very close to August’s 17.0 million pace. This likely September SAAR suggests a market more stable over the last three months than it was during the first half of the year.”

Large sales pace swings of 1.0 million units occurred a couple of times during the first six months of the year, but since then, sales volatility has diminished. However, this does not mean there isn’t still a strong possibility for surprising results – both above and below the forecast.

Many factors could impact September results. The General Motors and UAW strike is in its second week and, while there are signs of progress, the lengthy shut down could be impacting product availability. Also, concerns about an economic slowdown have risen recently in the wake of the yield curve inversion of government short- and long-term bonds earlier this summer. Consumer confidence, a critical ingredient to robust vehicle buying, has declined in recent weeks.

However, there is also a possibility of stronger than expected performance as OEMs implement aggressive pricing strategies to move old inventory during this model-year turnover period. The September record occurred in 1986 when over 1.7 million vehicles were sold and a SAAR of 21.2 million was reached. Those numbers are attributable to the strong performance of passenger car sales on the back of tax incentives and rising Asian imports. The market will not exceed that record this year.

September 2019 Sales Forecast Highlights

  • In September, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are forecast to reach 1.25 million units, down 13.7%, nearly 200,000 units, versus September 2018. When compared to last month, the decline is even more severe with volume down over 24%, or nearly 400,000 units.
  • The SAAR in September 2019 is estimated to be 16.9 million, down slightly from last month’s 17.0 million level and down from last year’s 17.3 million pace. This September has 23 selling days, two days less than last September, and five days less than last month, and this is contributing to the relatively stable SAAR estimate given a decrease in sales volume.

September 2019 Forecast

Sales Forecast1 Market Share
  Sep-19 Sep-18 Aug-19 YOY% MOM% Sep-19 Aug-19 MOM
GM 213,000 235,000* 288,000* -9.7% -26.1%* 17.0% 17.5%* -0.4%
Ford Motor Co 170,000 196,496 210,000* -13.5% -19.0%* 13.6% 12.7%* 0.9%
Toyota Motor Co 175,000 203,098 248,334 -13.8% -29.5% 14.0% 15.1% -1.1%
FCA Group 165,000 199,819 213,000* -17.4% -22.8%* 13.2% 13.0%* 0.2%
American Honda 125,000 132,668 173,993 -5.8% -28.2% 10.0% 10.6% -0.6%
Nissan NA 95,000 122,819 127,230 -22.7% -25.3% 7.6% 7.7% -0.1%
Hyundai Kia 100,000 108,862 126,224 -8.1% -20.8% 8.0% 7.7% 0.3%
VW 47,000 55,007 61,579 -14.6% -23.7% 3.8% 3.7% 0.0%
Subaru 54,000 57,044 70,039 -5.3% -22.9% 4.3% 4.2% 0.1%
Grand Total2 1,250,000 1,448,309 1,648,312 -13.7% -24.2%      
1 September 2019 Cox Automotive Industry Insights Forecast; all historical data from OEM sales announcements
2 Total includes brands not shown
* GM, Ford, FCA monthly sales are estimated
Sales Forecast1 Market Share
Segment Sep-19 Sep-18 Aug-19 YOY% MOM% Sep-19 Aug-19 MOM
Mid-Size Car 103,000 119,663 134,221 -13.9% -23.3% 8.2% 8.1% 0.1%
Compact Car 105,000 143,524 137,360 -26.8% -23.6% 8.4% 8.3% 0.1%
Compact SUV/Crossover 240,000 260,582 316,969 -7.9% -24.3% 19.2% 19.2% 0.0%
Full-Size Pickup Truck 175,000 206,466 235,437 -15.2% -25.7% 14.0% 14.3% -0.3%
Mid-Size SUV/Crossover 195,000 210,646 261,413 -7.4% -25.4% 15.6% 15.9% -0.3%
Grand Total2 1,250,000 1,448,309 1,648,312 -13.7% -24.2%      
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 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

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