Auto sales in the United States in 2021: a most unusual year

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Annual sales of light vehicles in the United States topped just over 15 million and were up 3.3% from 2020. Before COVID-19 hit the road in 2020 and the microchip shortage hits the following year, 2019 sales were 17.1 million, the seventh highest annual tally on record.

Motor Intelligence said the annualized and seasonally adjusted sales rate for December was 12.71 million, the second lowest in 2021 after September’s 12.38 million. This is a sharp drop from the 18.5 million SAARs recorded in April.

Automakers last week reported December or fourth-quarter sales that were weighed heavily by inventory and production issues due to the pandemic. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia fell for the fifth consecutive month.

Overall fourth quarter sales fell 21%.

After posting a gain in November, Ford sales fell 17% in December, despite being the best-selling automaker in the United States for the quarter. GM’s inventory problems led to a 43% drop in fourth-quarter sales, giving the automaker its worst quarter since 2009 and the second worst year since 1952. Stellantis also cited supply chain issues for its double-digit decline in the fourth quarter.

Tesla’s fourth-quarter sales climbed about 69% to 78,700, while smaller-volume Mitsubishi’s rose 68% to 24,861.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call last week, Toyota Motor North America executives continued to downplay the Japanese automaker’s first crown of sales in the United States as “unsustainable” and stated that they did not intend to commercialize this achievement due to extenuating circumstances. They also said consumer demand continues to outpace the ability of automakers to keep pace, which explains the company’s sharp drop of more than 30% in December.

“Of the 174,000 vehicles we sold in December, everything was limited by supply,” said Bob Carter, longtime Toyota Motor North America sales manager.

He said Toyota dealers ended the month with less than three days of supply, while Lexus dealers had just four days of supply. “This is the lowest level of dealer inventory I have ever seen. Everything is single-digit days supply so clearly demand is very robust. “

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