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U.S. Auto Sales Skid In January

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U.S. Auto Sales Skid In January

January is typically a soft month for auto sales, as sales cool off following the frenzied activity in the previous month on the back of heavy promotions to tap the holiday fervor. Additionally, the month is seen as cool-off period before a summer build up.

In line with the trend, most automakers reported sales declines for January. Nevertheless, the declines were less than feared, and the numbers for January were termed as healthy by analysts. Inventories are still running high, suggesting that automakers may have to take a hit to margins to push these.

Down But Not Out

In a release published on January 25, Edmunds said it expects sales of new cars to remain healthy in January despite the record setting December.

The firm estimated total vehicle sales of 1.154 million, down 31.5 percent from December 2016 and a 0.6 percent decline from January 2016.

"January had the potential of being a very slow month at dealerships, given the fact that auto sales shattered records in December," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis. "But January is shaping up to be a surprisingly healthy month. The economy continues to show signs of strength and consumers are feeling confident, boosting auto sales above initial expectations."

General Motors

  • General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) said in a release that its dealers delivered 195,909 vehicles, including cars, trucks and crossovers, in January, a 3.8 percent drop.
  • The company clarified that the weakness was partly due to its focus on profitability even as its key competitors won on volume by selling large stocks of deeply discounted old model-year pick-ups.
  • Retail sales, accounting for 79 percent of the sales, fell 4.9 percent, while fleet sales rose 1 percent.
  • The company's average transaction price rose $1,200 per unit to $34,500, marking a record for January.

Ford

  • Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) reported a 1 percent decline in total sales.
  • Retail sales, accounting for roughly 70 percent of the total sales, rose 6 percent to 120,400. The company attributed the strong retail gains to Ford F-Series trucks (13 percent growth) and Lincoln (22 percent growth).
  • Fleet sales fell 13 percent to 52,212.

Fiat Chrysler

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU) said its sales fell 11 percent to 152,218, with a 31 percent plunge in fleet sales doing the company in.

Japanese Automakers

  • Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE: HMC) saw its January sales climb 5.9 percent, with the company stating that total vehicle and truck sales hit January records. Total Honda division sales were up 7.7 percent compared to a 30.2 percent spike in Honda truck sales. On the other hand, Acura sales fell 10.2 percent.
  • Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE: TM)'s North American sales fell 11.3 percent, with the Toyota division seeing a 9.2 percent drop and Lexus declining 25.6 percent. Meanwhile, the company said its Toyota division saw the best ever January for RAV4 and Highlander.
  • Nissan Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (OTC: NSANY) reported a 6.2 percent increase in total sales to 112,319, with Nissan division sales rising 3.6 percent and Infiniti sales surging up 35.8 percent to 11,558.

General Motors estimated industry-wide light vehicles sales to come in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.6 million units in January. This is fairly in line with the consensus estimate of 17.7 million units but lower than December's pace of 18.4 million units.

At Time Of Writing

  • General Motors was down 1.45 percent at $36.10.
  • Ford was edging down 0.36 percent to $12.31.
  • Fiat Chrysler was declining 0.73 percent to $10.91.
  • Honda ADR was rising 0.77 percent to $29.95.
  • Toyota ADR was slipping 0.44 percent to $115.24.
  • Nissan ADR was down 0.98 percent at $19.64.

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