Friday, November 18, 2011

The recovery in U.S. Heavy Truck Sales, and a forecast for November Auto Sales

by Bill McBride on 11/18/2011 10:52:00 AM

Another bright spot for the economy has been the recovery in heavy truck sales (see graph below).

First, here is an early forecast for November light vehicle sales from J.D. Power and Associates:

November new-vehicle retail sales are projected to come in at 791,900 units, which represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 11.3 million units—the highest monthly selling rate in three and a half years.

Total light-vehicle sales in November are expected to come in at 975,600 units, which is 8 percent higher than in November 2010. Fleet sales are expected to decrease by 6 percent compared with November 2010, but will account for 19 percent of total sales.
Their total sales forecast would be 13.4 million (SAAR), and that would be the highest sales rate since August 2008 (excluding cash-for-clunkers in August 2009).

Growth in auto sales should make a nice positive contribution to Q4 GDP. Sales in Q3 averaged 12.45 million SAAR, and just looking at October and this forecast for November, sales will be up close to 7% in Q4 over Q3 (over 30% annualized).

Heavy Truck Sales Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows heavy truck sales since 1967 using data from the BEA. The dashed line is current estimated sales rate.

Heavy truck sales really collapsed during the recession, falling to a low of 175 thousand in April 2009 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). Since then sales have almost doubled and hit 346 thousand (SAAR) in October 2011.

This is the highest level since June 2007 (over 4 years ago). And this is still below the average of the last 20 years - and well below the peaks - so there is probably more growth in sales to come.

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