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Cox Automotive Forecast: No Relief in Sight as Slow New-Vehicle Sales Persist in April


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Article Highlights

  1. April new-vehicle sales volume is forecast to fall nearly 20% from one year ago and finish near 1.23 million units, down 1.7% from last month.
  2. Annual new-vehicle sales pace in April is expected to finish near 14.3 million, up from last month’s 13.3 million pace but down from last year’s 18.3 million level.
  3. Supply chain issues continue to cause product availability to remain constrained, holding down new-vehicle sales.

UPDATED, May 3, 2022 – While April sales are still being tallied by our teams, initial projections indicate total sales will come in near 1.2 million, down more than 20% from year-ago levels and very near our forecast released last week. As Cox Automotive Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough noted earlier, the new-vehicle inventory situation has not materially changed and continues to hold new-vehicle sales in check.

The significant year-over-year decline in sales – a market down more than 20% – is perhaps more a reflection of last year’s sales strength and less about a drastic drop-off in the spring of 2022. In fact, new-vehicle sales in April might well be considered relatively normal if we consider the past year “a new normal” for the industry.

New-vehicle days’ supply has been below 40 days since early May 2021 – for roughly a year now – and the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales (SAAR) has been at or below 15 million since July 2021. In that light, new-vehicles sales last month were quite normal indeed. 

A year ago, in April 2021, the SAAR hit 18.3 million, the hottest sales pace in a decade. That now feels like a different time, a different market, when deals were flying and lots were full. In our new world, a sales pace in the mid-14 million range is normal now, with sales volume near 1.1 million. (Since June 2021, monthly new-vehicle sales have averaged 1.14 million units). Demand remains healthy, despite higher prices. Product availability continues to hold back the market – and shape the industry’s new normal. Look for more of the same in May.

The team will share further data on average transaction prices, incentive levels, inventory levels and fleet sales in the coming days.

ATLANTA, April 27, 2022 – When automakers report sales next week, there will be little talk of spring growth. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales is forecast by Cox Automotive to be near 14.3 million, up from last month’s 13.3 million pace. However, this month-over-month sales-pace gain is from seasonal adjustment factors, not volume increases.

April sales volume is forecast to fall 1.7% from March, despite having the same number of selling days. After nearly a year, limited supplies of cars and trucks on dealer lots across the country continue to hamper new-vehicle sales. Year over year, sales volume is forecast to drop nearly 20%.

Last year, the U.S. auto market had a spring bounce to remember. April 2021 was one of the best-selling months in the U.S. market since the Great Recession, as the SAAR reached a pace of 18.3 million. Optimism around vaccines, coupled with $1,400 stimulus checks, led to a demand surge. However, inventory at dealerships across the country could not be replaced at previous production levels due to COVID-created supply chain issues, and supply was drawn down quickly. The market has been operating with tight inventories ever since.

Cox Automotive Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough explains: “The situation on the ground has not changed significantly for months. Product availability remains constrained, and many customers can only order their vehicles for future delivery. Improved inventory conditions will likely not happen in 2022 as many customers are now waiting for their already reserved vehicles to be built. We expect production volumes to improve in the second half of the year, but fulfilling existing orders may not allow dealer inventory to accumulate in any noticeable way.” 

April 2022 Sales Forecast

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

About Cox Automotive
Cox Automotive Inc. makes buying, selling, owning and using vehicles easier for everyone. The global company’s more than 27,000 team members and family of brands, including Autotrader®, 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 annual revenues of nearly $20 billion. www.coxautoinc.com

Media Contacts:
Mark Schirmer
734 883 6346

Dara Hailes
470 658 0656

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