Auto Sales Rebound in January – Robert Hughes (02/07/2020)

Sales of light vehicles totaled 16.8 million at an annual rate in January, up from a 16.6 million pace in December (see top chart). The pace of sales in January remains well within the 16 to 18 million-unit range that we have seen for much of the past two decades. Unit vehicle sales fell significantly below the range as the 2008–9 recession began, hitting a low of just 9.0 million in February 2009. Sales began a slow recovery and returned to the 16 to 18 million range in March 2014 and have remained there for 71 consecutive months (see top chart).

As of January 2019, light-truck sales totaled 12.6 million at an annual rate while cars managed just 4.2 million. That puts the light-truck share at 75.0 percent, completely dominating the car share of 25.0 percent. The rising share of light trucks continues a trend in place since 2013 (see bottom chart). In February 2013, the split between cars and light trucks (SUVs and pick-up trucks) was about even, with both segments selling about 7.76 million at an annual rate.

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