Despite lingering concerns about the economy, pent-up demand in the automotive market combined with an influx of new and refreshed models is continuing to entice buyers, according to Ernst & Young’s Global Automotive Center.
During the first quarter of this year, light vehicle sales reached more than 2.4 million units, a 6.6 percent gain compared to the same period in 2012. The increase was beyond initial expectations, according to Ernst & Young.
“Light vehicle sales have been strong so far this year as consumers seem unfazed by the higher payroll taxes and ongoing government budget debate,” said Andy Sale, the Americas automotive leader for Ernst & Young. “In addition, vehicle sales are expected to be strong moving into the second quarter as the spring sales season begins, new vehicles are launched and attractive interest rates drive consumers to dealer showrooms.”
Despite spikes in gas prices, sales of light trucks were up 10 percent for the quarter compared to the same period in 2012. The slow recovery of the construction and housing markets helped propel light-truck sales.
The crossover/utility vehicle segment also contributed to gains in the truck segment. Sales of crossover/utility vehicles–driven by sales of new models and a rise in consumer confidence–experienced a 17 percent year-over-year increase. Mid-sized and small-car deliveries rose marginally by 2.8 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012.
The strong first quarter indicates that the U.S. market likely will reach the 15-15.5 million unit sales range by the end of the year. About 16-17 million units were sold on average in pre-recession years, according to Ernst & Young.
Additionally, SEMA reported that exhibitor registrations for its 2013 show are already surpassing last year’s pre-show registration. There is a 9 percent year-over-year increase in companies participating in the priority booth selection process, a strong indication that the overall health of the specialty-equipment industry continues to improve, according to the show’s management team.