By Danni Santana
Auto sales in April are expected to reach highs not seen in a decade, indicating sales are finally heating up after an icy start to the year.
Both TrueCar and LMC Automotive predict 1.5 million vehicles will be sold in April, representing a 6 percent year-over-year increase and the highest April sales month since 2005.
Analysts, however, do expect the seasonally adjusted annualized rate to take a slight dip, down from 17.1 million in March. April’s consensus-annualized rate of 16.9 million by forecasters is still higher than discouraging yearly totals projected at the end of a snowy February.
“The trend in sales is up. It shows that the low numbers in the beginning of the year were exaggerated,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont. “The labor market is strong and interest rates and gas prices are low. Overall, the backdrop for consumer spending is favorable.”
April is typically a slow sales month compared to March. But if projections hold true, at least 1.5 million cars and trucks will be sold for the second consecutive month, helping the industry get closer to its goal of surpassing 17 million units for the first time since 2001.
Vehicle sales in the U.S. fell just short of four million in the first quarter, a 6 percent increase from 2014 when sales topped 16.5 million, according to AutoData Corp.
Steady employment and low gas prices continue to benefit Americans looking for automobiles, most of which are demanding high priced gas-guzzlers. Through April 19, trucks made up 56 percent of industry retail sales, marking the first time truck sales have exceeded 55 percent in April since 2004, according to LMC Automotive.
“Underpinning this solid outlook is an incredible appetite for crossovers, sport utilities and pickup trucks,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for TrueCar. “Automakers with strong light truck offerings continue to gain and will benefit from the likelihood gasoline prices will remain low this summer.”
TrueCar projects Fiat Chrysler to perform the best of all its U.S. competitors. Its Subaru trucks are expected to post a 24 percent sale increase, the most among the 10 largest automakers.
Long term, the industry research giant believes U.S. automakers will reach 17 million units sold thanks to a strong summer-selling season buoyed by low gas prices and pent up demand.
“It’s possible February’s low sales could prevent automakers from reaching 17 million,” said Alan Chernoff, a research assistant at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates. “Even so automakers won’t be too far off from their goal, probably around 16.9 million which is still very impressive.”