New light-vehicle sales fell in September, which was a bit of an anomaly with 23 selling days compared to 25 selling days last September. Also, Labor Day weekend was counted as part of the sales numbers for August rather than September. But even though September sales may seem alarming at first, such headline-grabbing numbers don’t tell the whole story.
The September SAAR of 17.19 million units represents a decline of only 0.8% compared to September of last year. And the year-to-date SAAR of 16.98 million units represents a decline of just 1%. Through the third quarter, vehicle sales this year are down by only 136,000 units compared to 2018—hardly a bottoming out of the new-vehicle market. And sales for the third quarter itself are actually up by 34,000 units compared to the third quarter of 2018.
From this economist’s perspective, new light-vehicle sales are shaping up exactly as we have expected: down slightly but still very much a solid year for the market as a whole. We are holding steady with our forecast of 16.8 million units for 2019.