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New-Vehicle SAAR Falls Below 17 Million in August, Manheim Reports

September 8, 2016

ATLANTA — The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for new vehicles fell below 17 million for the second time this year in August, according to Manheim. The firm, however, said the drop should not be cause for concern, noting that it "may be a good think."

A lower SAAR, the company stated, points to manufacturers not overly pushing the market. Although incentives in August were up compared to a year ago, they were flat sequentially. This was caused by a lot of stair-step money not being dispersed during the month due to dealers not reaching their quotas.  

Preliminary numbers also show that a reduction in lease incentives might have caused a year-over-year decline in lease penetration rates in August, according to the company.

While leasing and new-vehicle sales stumbled this month, used-car sales are thriving.

“In the first seven months of 2016, used unit sales by both franchised and independent dealers increased at the fastest pace of this recovery, and more than twice as fast as last year. While new retail unit sales have declined this year, used unit sales are up. That’s normal for this point in the automotive cycle, and we expect it will continue into 2017,” read Manheim’s Used Vehicle Value Index report for August.

Certified pre-owned sales rose 6% in August compared to a year ago and 4% year to date, according to Manheim. The company said it expects full-year sales to reach a record 2.7 million.

­­Wholesale used-vehicle prices declined slightly in August, according to Manheim. However, the recorded Manheim Used Vehicle Value reading for the month was still 2.1% higher than the same time last year at 126.9.

According to Manheim, wholesale pricing this year has been supported by a retail market that has experienced higher volumes, stabilizing margins and respectable turn rates. But primarily, Manheim stated, wholesale pricing has been supported by the improved efficiencies in dealers’ used-vehicle operations.

A couple issues that played a part in last month’s decline in used-vehicle pricing, according to Manheim, were a lack of growth in hourly earnings and a cut to the average work week during the month. In terms of aggregate demand, Manheim added, the combination of these factors equated to a loss of 300,000 jobs during August.

For the second consecutive month, the number of people employed part time for economic reasons grew in August, the company stated.

“How did the financial markets react to this? With glee. They took it as a sign that rates would not be hiked at the September meeting, even though the normalization of monetary policy is long overdue. Federal-funds futures put the odds of a rate hike this month at only 32%, and only 60% by December,” Manheim noted in its report.

However, this mindset is misguided, according to Manheim. The company said it expects employment growth to slow over the next year and, and in order for the market to thrive, employment needs to grow. But low interest rates will not help employment growth, the firm added.

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