Friday, March 27, 2009

Vehicle Sales: Cliff Diving in February

by Bill McBride on 3/27/2009 11:34:00 AM

The BEA released vehicle sales for February this morning. Total auto and truck sales in the U.S. were 9.29 million (SAAR).

The automakers will release March sales numbers next Wednesday.

U.S. Vehicle Sales Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The first graph shows monthly vehicle sales (autos and trucks) as reported by the BEA at a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR).

This shows that sales have plunged to a 9.29 million annual rate in February; the lowest since Dec 1981.

March 2009 sales will be down sharply from March 2008 too, but analysts will be looking for some stabilization on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Fleet TurnoverThis graph shows the total number of registered vehicles in the U.S. divided by the sales rate - and gives a turnover ratio for the U.S. fleet (this doesn't tell you the age of the fleet).

Currently this ratio is at 26.8 years, the highest ever. This is an unsustainable level (I doubt most vehicles will last 27 years!), and the ratio will probably decline over the next few years. This could happen with vehicles being removed from the fleet, but more likely because of a sales increase.

This suggests vehicle sales are much nearer the bottom than the top, and there will probably be some sort of modest rebound later this year.

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