US Auto Sales Decline, Ending Record Streak

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According to Autodata Corp, which tracks industry sales, the seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) of United States auto and light truck sales in December fell to 17.9 million units from 18.2 million in December 2016.

Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist, forecasts 2018 total vehicle sales (including medium and heavy trucks) to exceed 17 million units for the fourth year in a row.

The three leaders in the USA market - General Motors, Ford and Toyota - all reported modest declines Wednesday in annual sales compared with 2016, a record-setting year for the auto industry. Sales totaled 2.587 million units compared with 2.615 million sold in 2016. Across its five brands, fleet sales in December were down 42 percent from a year earlier, the company said. Volkswagen brand sales rose 5 percent. Sales dropped 5 percent to 1.6 million last month.

- LUXURY CROWN: Mercedes-Benz's sales fell 1 percent to 337,246, but that was still enough to make it the top-selling luxury brand in the US for the second straight year. But the influx of late-model used cars coming back on the market could also cut into sales of new vehicles. "That typically isn't great for vehicle shopping, but the industry ran really strong in the last 10 days" of the month. New vehicle sales in March are expected to top 1.4 million in the US, on pace for 14.6 million within the year.

Asked about how tax overhaul and some extra money in pockets might help the industry, Ford Vice President Mark LaNeve says it's hard to just yet but,"Early read from some of our dealers and big commercial accounts - there may be some positives in it in terms of the overall commercial aspects of the market, which would be great for us considering how strong we are in that part of the business". Automakers are releasing monthly and annual sales numbers Wednesday. Passenger auto sales dropped 14.2% while sport utility vehicle sales rose 2.9% and truck sales rose 4.3%.

Despite the usual year-end push to get vehicles out the door, most automakers endured tough sledding in December.

Ford's USA sales rose 0.9 percent in December, fueled by 89,385 F-Series pickup trucks.

Analysts think sales will fall a bit further this year. Fiesta sales fell by 3% and Fusion sales fell 8.8% year over year. GM reported a less dramatic monthly drop than analysts expected, as sales of the Chevrolet Silverado climbed 25%. Honda division saw its sales drop last month by 6.3%, but came in with a 0.7% jump for all of 2017. "That will keep the broad economy growing, and help keep sales at very healthy levels even as the Fed increases interest rates".

- PILING ON THE DEALS: New vehicle prices hit a record past year, averaging $36,113 as buyers bought bigger SUVs and added more safety and infotainment features, Kelley Blue Book said.

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