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US Auto Market Update

Auto sales for Quarter 3 improved 13.8% compared to quarter 3 of 2011. In September alone, industry sales increased by 12.8%, continuing the slow growth that started in July of this year.

Jumpstart Automotive recently analyzed recent online car shopping data and discovered a number of interesting trends:

  • Sedans are the most popular segment, with 36% of shopper interest.
  • SUVs come in 2nd with 19%.
  • Ford was the most researched brand with 14.8% of searches

In September US auto sales reached the highest monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate: 14.9 million vehicles.  Kelley Blue Book expects sales to steadily continue through to year-end, reaching 14.4 million units overall in 2012. This would mark an 11 per cent improvement from 2011 and the third consecutive year of double-digit growth. Sales units are expected to be in excess of 15 million for 2013.  This robust recovery comes after  a 27-year low in industry sales in 2009 when sales were only 10.5 million units following the housing bust.  At that time consumers were very cautious with spending and delaying major purchases.  However, low interest rates, replacement of aging vehicles (average vehicle age is 11 years), a high number of vehicle leases ending, and new model releases will drive this growth into 2013.

Luxury vehicle sales in September were flat as dealers start to slash prices to make way for 2012 models.  The past several years has seen a total rejuvenation of all vehicle segments.  Last year there was a complete relaunch of the compact sedan and crossover segments, while this year the mid-size category has gone through its own renaissance. Next year Kelley Blue Book expects major redesigns in the full-size truck and sport utility categories.

Used car values fell 1 per cent in September, resulting in the mildest decline in more than three months. Kelley Blue Book expects values to continue to drop at auction through year-end, in accordance with traditional seasonal depreciation patterns. While the rest of the year isn’t expected to offer many surprises at auction, we expect a bump in supply early in 2013 when a jump in off-lease volume returns to market.

There has been lots of talk this month regarding the increases in the number of mobile car shoppers. According to a recent study by Nielson, a higher proportion of used and certified pre-owned shoppers are using mobile devices during their search. In addition, Nielson also discovered that 87% of car shoppers are already using or planning to use a mobile device in their search for a car.  This is a significant change in the car search habits of consumers and will force sellers of vehicles to adapt to this industry change.

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