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Used Market Strong in October Despite 2.2% Decrease in Wholesale Prices

November 21, 2017

MCLEAN, Va. — The lingering effects of hurricanes Harvey and Irma kept the used-vehicle market strong in October, with wholesale prices for used vehicles up to eight years in age falling 2.2%. Over the past five years, losses for the period average a slightly higher 3.2% for the period.

This caused J.D. Power’s seasonally adjusted used-vehicle price index to register its third straight monthly increase, as it grew 1.1 points to 114.5. Through the first 10 months of the year, the index was down 6.2% compared to the same period in 2016. The movement is a 0.4% improvement compared to where the index sat in September.

“At the segment level, mainstream car losses were directionally in line with the status quo for the period. Subcompact prices declined the most for the month, down 4.6%,” the firm noted in its report. “Looking back past five years, subcompact car losses averaged a lesser 3.8% for the period.”

Following close behind, mid-size prices fell by 3.7% — a slight improvement compared to how the segment’s prices typically track. Over the past five years, mid-size van losses averaged a greater 4.2% in the October period.

After several strong months, large pickup prices deteriorated for the second month in a row. Prices for the segment fell by an average of 2%. “This October’s loss was the biggest large pickups have recorded this year, however, they were nearly identical to the segment’s previous five-year October average,” the firm said.

“On the luxury side of the market, segment losses were mixed for the month,” the firm added, noting that luxury large utility prices declined the most among premium segments. Prices for the group fell 4.1%, which was about two points worse than their normal performance in October.

Luxury large car prices followed close behind, falling by an average of 3.8%, while remaining luxury segment losses landed between 0.8% for luxury mid-size car and 2% for luxury compact car.

For November, wholesale prices of vehicles up to eight years in age are expected to decline by approximately 2.4%. November’s expected loss is slightly less than the 3.1% drop recorded during the same period in 2016. At the segment level, car losses, in general, are still expected to outpace those of trucks and SUVs.

“In terms of full-year expectations, used prices are forecast to decline by around 5.4% in 2017, which is an improvement compared to our pre-Hurricane Harvey and Irma forecast,” the firm noted. “The year’s expected result is now 1.3 points worse than 2016’s 4.1% loss. Looking further out, losses in 2018 are expected to decelerate to under 3%.”

After improving 6% in September, U.S. automakers in October sold 1.35 million vehicles. That’s 1.5% below 2016’s level. October’s result brought 2017’s year-to-date tally to 14.1 million units, which is down 1.8% compared to the same 10-month period in 2016. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) decreased to 17.98 million units, down from 18.47 million units in September. October’s SAAR was also higher than the 17.8 million performance recorded in October 2016.

“October was a particularly strong month for light trucks, with sales increasing 3.4% while car sales remained weak and decreased by 9.6% compared to October 2016 levels,” the firm stated. “The share of new truck deliveries accounted for 66% of the market, while cars trailed behind with 34%. Looking back a year to October 2016, trucks accounted for 63% of the market, while cars accounted for 37% of total new sales.”

New-vehicle sales declined despite incentive spending increasing for the 31st month in a row. According to Autodata, spending reached an average of $3,724 per unit vs. $3,533 per unit in October 2016.

Among the U.S. Big Three, GM increased incentives by 10.2% in October to an average of $4,910 per unit. It reported a 2.3% decrease in new-vehicle sales compared to a year ago. Spending at Ford Motor Co., which reported a 5.9% increase in sales for the month, grew by 5.6% to $4,289 per unit, while Fiat Chrysler increased its incentives by 3.4% to an average of $4,557 per unit. The carmaker, however, reported a 13.3% sales decline in October.

On the import side, Toyota Motor Sales, which reported a 1.1% sales increase, increased incentive spending by 3.7% in October, reaching an average of $2,523 per unit. American Honda, whose sales inched up by 0.9% in October, increased its incentive spending by 1.8% to $1,935, while Nissan North America improved sales by 8.4% despite decreasing spending by 4.7% to $4,036 per unit.

Luxury automaker BMW cut back incentives by 21.3% to an average of $5,539 in October. Audi increased spending by 9.8% to $3,674 per unit, while Mercedes-Benz grew spending by 3.7% to $4,962.

“At the mainstream brand level, Ram’s $6,125 average incentive spend was the highest among non-luxury nameplates. Smart, Chrysler and Buick each spend more than $500 per unit on incentives in October, while Dodge spent $4,136,” the firm noted. “At the other end of the spectrum, Subaru spent only $1,067 per unit, down by 2.7% compared to the same period in 2016.”

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