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New Vehicle Sales Post Gains for First Time in 2018

The new vehicle retail sales pace in March is expected to rise from year-ago levels, according to a forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for retail sales is expected to be 13.4 million units, up 200,000 from a year ago. Retail sales are projected to reach 1,275,000 units, a 0.2 percent increase on a selling day adjusted basis compared with March 2017.

“Despite the disruption from inclement weather on the East Coast, the industry is expected to post year-over-year retail sales gains for the first time in 2018,” said Thomas King, senior vice president of the data and analytics division at J.D. Power. “While this breaks a streak of three consecutive months of decline, the industry is boosted by a quirk in the calendar due to an additional selling weekend.”

On a national basis, retail sales through the first three weeks of March are up 0.5 percent from last year, but in the Northeast, sales are down 0.5 percent over the same period.

Average incentive spending, however, continues to rise and month-to-date is $3,849, up $74 versus the same period last year. Spending on trucks and SUVs (up $160) is driving the increase while spending on cars is down $54.

The average new-vehicle retail transaction price month-to-date is $32,129, a record for March, surpassing the previous high of $31,391 set in March 2017

Consumers are on pace to spend $41 billion on new vehicles in March, more than $2 billion greater than last year’s level.

Trucks account for 66 percent of new-vehicle retail sales through March 18-the highest level ever for the month of March-making it the 21st consecutive month above 60 percent.

Fleet sales are expected to total 335,300 units in March, down 1.2 percent from March 2017.  Fleet volume is expected to account for 21 percent of total light-vehicle sales, flat versus last year.

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