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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Set New Record in 2015
by Tom Moeller  January 5, 2016

Records were meant to be broken, and total sales of light vehicles in 2015 did just that. Rising to 17.42 million units, they just beat the old record of 17.40 million reached in 2000, as gasoline prices and interest rates fell. The feat occurred despite a 4.6% m/m decline in December sales to 17.34 million (SAAR) from 18.19 million during November. It was the lowest level in six months. Nevertheless, sales rose 2.5% versus December 2014, pulling the full-year average up 5.4% against 2014. These gains were, however, the smallest of the economic expansion.

Sales of light trucks set the pace in 2015 with a 12.7% full-year increase to a record 9.69 million units. Their 55.7% share of total vehicle purchases also was a new record. The gain was led by a 25.3% surge in imported light truck sales to 1.37 million units, just off the 2007 record of 1.47 million. Not to be outdone, the 10.8% increase in sales of domestically produced light trucks pulled them to a record 8.33 million. During December, sales of imported light trucks fell 3.2% to 1.59 million. Nevertheless, they were 45.9% higher than December 2014. Sales of domestically produced light trucks fell 4.4% last month to 8.34 million (+8.1% y/y).

Passenger car sales during all of 2015 declined 2.5% to 7.72 million units, leaving them well below the 1990 high of 9.30 million. Sales of U.S. made cars eased 0.8% to 5.63 million while sales of imports fell 6.7% to 2.09 million. For December, passenger car sales declined 5.2% from November to 7.40 million (-8.7% y/y). Sales of domestically made cars fell 3.4% to 5.51 million (-5.5% y/y) while sales of imported cars were off 10.1% to 1.89 million (-17.0% y/y).

Imports share of the light vehicle market eased slightly y/y to 19.8% last year. That was, however, well below the 27.6% peak reached in 2009. During December, their share was 20.1%. Imports share of the car market came to 27.1% last year and 25.5% in December. Imports share of the light truck market totaled 14.1% in 2005 and 16.0% during December.

U.S. vehicle sales figures are published by Autodata and can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2015 2014 2013
Total 17.34 18.19 18.24 2.5 17.42 16.52 15.59
 Autos 7.40 7.81 8.01 -8.7 7.72 7.92 7.77
  Domestic 5.51 5.71 5.89 -5.5 5.63 5.68 5.48
  Imported 1.89 2.10 2.12 -17.0 2.09 2.24 2.30
 Light Trucks 9.94 10.38 10.23 12.8 9.69 8.60 7.82
  Domestic 8.34 8.73 8.61 8.1 8.33 7.51 6.74
  Imported 1.59 1.65 1.62 45.9 1.37 1.09 1.08
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