In both its strength and duration, the current expansion in the U.S. automotive market continues to exceed expectations.
After a strong performance in August, total motor vehicle sales in the United States for the month of September registered a salubrious 18.2 million units on an annualized basis. This was 10 percent higher than the same month a year ago. Sales averaged 17.8 million units in the third quarter, which represented the strongest quarterly sales total in the past 10 years.
Would it be a mixed metaphor to say that the automotive industry is soaring.
For the year to date, total vehicle sales are up 5 percent when compared with the same period in 2014, and that is what we are forecasting for the annual total this year — a gain of at least 5 percent, to an annual total of well over 17 million units. It is worth noting that the number of cars sold this year will be flat-to-down when compared with last year, while the number of light trucks sold will rise by 10 to 12 percent.
Low gas prices are a large part of the explanation for the surge in light truck demand, but this segment also is getting a push from the strengthening recovery in the construction sector, which represents a large market for pick-up trucks. Sales of delivery vehicles also are getting a boost from the burgeoning amount of e-commerce activity.
For the North American plastics processors, mold makers and equipment manufacturers who supply this industry, the trend in the data on motor vehicle assemblies is more relevant because the above-referenced total vehicle sales data includes sales of both imported and domestically-produced cars. According to data from the Federal Reserve Board, total motor vehicle assemblies advanced by more than 6 percent in the third quarter when compared with the same quarter last year, and they are up 4 percent for the year to date. Our forecast calls for an annual gain of at least 4 percent this year to a total of 12.2 million units assembled.
Forecast for 2016