Decline in first-quarter auto sales belies booming market

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American industry has no shortage of buyers right now – just the inventory to satisfy them.

As factory problems on three continents continue to disappoint efforts to capture what analysts say is pent-up consumer demand, U.S. auto sales fell 16% in the first quarter for the 11 automakers automobiles that reported last week.

“We have a huge incentive on our end to build and ship,” said David Christ, Toyota Division Chief, Toyota Motor North America. Automotive News. “With consumer demand as it is right now, even if we start building cars at full capacity today, it will take us some time to fill those backorders.”

Announcing its sales results, Toyota thanked its customers “for their patience as we work around the clock to ensure their needs are met.”

Industry totals will not be available until all automakers report. Most companies released U.S. sales results for March and the first quarter on Friday, April 1. Ford Motor Co., Volvo, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Jaguar Land Rover will release their results this week or later this month.

Toyota Motor Corp. topped General Motors’ first-quarter sales of 5,484 vehicles, despite Toyota’s overall sales decline of 15%. Toyota replaced GM as America’s top automaker last year.

But it’s not a sluggish market. Many retailers sell vehicles on an entry, exit basis. Almost as soon as a vehicle hits a dealership’s lot, a customer shows up to take delivery.

In this market, “our pace of production equals our pace of sale,” said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at JD Power. Automotive News.
The pinched sales tally has led forecasting companies to revise their sales projections for the full year. LMC Automotive and JD Power expect total U.S. light vehicle sales of 15.3 million for 2022, down from an earlier forecast of 15.9 million. Cox Automotive also cut its forecast for 2022 to 15.3 million from 16 million.

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