Strong sales of the redesigned Impreza have helped put Subaru in position for a record April despite tepid numbers industrywide. Photo courtesy Subaru of America Inc.
IRVINE, Calif. — New-vehicle sales in April are expected to fall 3% year over year to 1.45 million units, resulting in an estimated 17.1 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), according to analysts at valuation and data provider Kelley Blue Book (div. Cox Automotive).
“After a weaker-than-expected March, it’s becoming more likely that 2017 will be the first down year for the industry since 2009,” said Tim Fleming, a KBB analyst. “Kelley Blue Book expects April to continue this downward trend, however the SAAR should bounce back to approximately 17.1 million as a result of one less selling day. Beyond April, we will continue to closely monitor still high levels of inventory and elevated incentive spending by manufacturers, both of which are signs of overproduction following last year’s sales peak.”
After a record sales year in 2016 and seven consecutive year-over-year sales increases, Kelley Blue Book’s forecast for 2017 calls for sales in the range of 16.8 million to 17.3 million units, which represents a 1% to 4% decrease from last year.
April light-vehicle sales — including fleet — are expected to hit 1,445,000 units, down 3% compared to the same month a year ago and down 7% from March 2017. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for April 2017 is estimated to be 17.1 million, down from 17.3 million in April 2016 and up from 16.5 million in March 2017. However, retail sales are expected to account for 79.2% of volume in April 2017, up slightly from 79% in April 2016.
At the factory level, Subaru is poised to set another monthly record, led by the recently redesigned Impreza sport sedan/hatchback. Fiat Chrysler did not perform well in April, but it could get a boost from the new Jeep Compass; FCA’s overall SUV lineup has struggled in an otherwise reliable segment.
SUVs continue to dominate sales growth in the industry, and this month, KBB analysts expect the mid-size SUV segment to see the highest growth at an estimated 8% increase. Mid-size SUVs appear to have the largest impact in swaying consumers from buying mid-size cars and minivans, both of which are down 20% this year.
“Mid-size cars continue to endure another poor month, and Kelley Blue Book anticipates the segment’s market share will fall nearly two percentage points,” said Fleming. “Just two of the 12 models in the segment — the [Volkswagen] Passat and the Mazda6 — have seen positive growth so far this year. Incentive spending for mid-size cars still remains high, despite the contraction in volume, which suggests further weakness may still lie ahead.”
There are 26 sales days in April 2017, compared to 27 sales days in April 2016. All percentages are based on raw volume, not daily selling rate.