Cox Automotive Forecast: Third-quarter US auto sales mostly unchanged from 2021

In preparation for the end of the month sales results, Cox Automotive has lowered its full-year new vehicle sales forecast to 13.7 million units, down from the original forecast of 14.4 million. If that number holds, it will mean sales in 2022 are projected to finish more than 9% lower versus 2021 and will be at the lowest level in a decade.

According to the Cox Automotive forecast, September US new vehicle sales are expected to finish around 1.1 million units, with a sales pace, or SAAR of 13.3 million units. Sales volume for the month is expected to show an increase of 8% over 2021 but will finish down almost 4% compared to August due to one less selling day in the month.

“New vehicle sales have been remarkably consistent through the third quarter, with sales of approximately 1.1 million units each month in July, August, and September,” said Charlie Chesbrough, Senior Economist at Cox Automotive. “New-vehicle inventory has been holding steady, with days’ supply near 40,” he added.

The September results will put the total new vehicle sales forecast for the third quarter at 3.4 million units. That’s a 1% decrease from Q3 in 2021 and a slight decline from the 3.5 million units sold in the second quarter of this year. Pre-pandemic sales in the third quarter of 2019 were around 4.3 million.

According to the report, General Motors, Ford, and Tesla will be the biggest gainers year-over-year in the third quarter, while Japanese brands like Honda and Nissan will show the most significant declines.

The supply shortage began around September 2021 and is still impacting inventory levels. And although inventory has shown a slight improvement, numbers remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

“The supply shortage has likely created some pent-up demand – folks who were essentially waiting in line for inventory to return,” said Chesbrough. “But the recent changes in the economic outlook from rising interest rates are beginning to chip away at demand, and the waiting line for new vehicles is likely getting much shorter.”

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