In a first for 2023, fleet sales dipped in October due to production halts caused by the United Auto Workers strike, according to Cox Automotive.
Fleet sales declined 10.4% from October 2022 to 162,590 units, a rare decrease during a year that has seen the market outpace others in terms of demand. By segment, commercial sales declined 21%, while rental sales declined 7.1%. While still representing the smallest portion of total volume, government sales showed resilience, increasing 31.1% year-over-year.
Despite the annual decline, fleet sales still improved on a monthly basis. In September, combined sales of commercial, government, and rental fleet vehicles, all of which increased from the prior-year period, totaled 154,400 units, an overall increase of 26% from 2022. As a result, October’s volume represents a month-over-month gain of 8,190 units or 5.3%. Fleet market share was down on both a monthly and yearly basis, dropping 1.5 percentage points from last October and 0.3 percentage points from September.
Nevertheless, the sudden drop in year-over-year sales stands out amidst an otherwise strong year for the market, although there is an easily identifiable culprit. While the United Auto Workers strike began in September, most of it took place in October, having a greater effect on that month’s production. However, the impacts of the UAW strike were felt differently by different sectors. Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, noted that “retail sales picked up slightly” even as overall fleet sales declined. “Our shopping data suggests some buyers came into the market early in October as the strike was underway, hopeful to buy before inventories dried up and prices climbed further,” he noted.