Light-Vehicle Sales Decreased in February – Robert Hughes (03/04/2021)

Sales of light vehicles totaled 15.7 million at an annual rate in February, below the 16.6 million pace in January and the second month out of the last four below the 16 to 18 million range. Unit sales plunged in March and April to 11.4 million and 8.7 million annual rates, respectively (see chart). The pace of sales in April was the lowest on record since this data series began in 1976 and follows a run of 72 months in the 16 to 18 million range from March 2014 through February 2020.

Breaking down sales by origin of assembly, sales of domestic vehicles dropped to 11.9 million units versus 12.8 million in January (see chart), a drop of 6.6 percent, while imports fell to 3.7 million versus 3.8 million in January, a drop of 2.9 percent. The domestic share came in at 76.2 percent in February versus 76.8 in January, the lowest since June; excluding the pandemic-related plunge, the domestic share is the lowest since May 2018 (see chart).

Breaking down by size of vehicle, February light-truck sales totaled 12.3 million at an annual rate versus a 12.9 million rate in January, a drop of 5.0 percent, but well ahead of the 6.7 million rate in April. Car sales posted a sharp drop, falling to a 3.4 annual rate versus 3.7 in January, a fall of 8.1 percent.

The light-truck share stood at 78.3 percent for February, a new record high, completely dominating the car share of 21.7 percent. The dominant share of light-trucks continues a long-term trend. As recently as February 2013, the split between cars and light-trucks (SUVs and pick-up trucks) was about even, with both segments selling about 7.8 million at an annual rate.

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