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Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Annual Vehicle Sales increase 3% in 2021; Sales Mix and Heavy Trucks

by Calculated Risk on 1/05/2022 11:23:00 AM

The BEA released their estimate of light vehicle sales for December today. The BEA estimates sales of 12.44 million SAAR in December 2021 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), down 3.3% from the November sales rate, and down 23.8% from December 2020. 

Annual Vehicle SalesClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows annual sales since 1976.

Light vehicle sales in 2021 were at 14.93 million, up 3.1% from 14.47 million in 2020.

Sales in 2021 were impacted significantly by supply chain disruptions, and sales were still down 12% from the 2019 level.

This suggests vehicle sales will increase in 2022 and boost GDP.

Vehicle Sales This graph shows monthly light vehicle sales since 1967 from the BEA. The dashed line is sales for the current month.

The impact of COVID-19 was significant, and April 2020 was the worst month.  After April 2020, sales increased, and were close to sales in 2019 (the year before the pandemic).  

However, sales decreased earlier this year due to supply issues. It appears the "supply chain bottom" was in September, but sales in December were disappointing again.

This third graph shows sales for passenger cars and trucks / SUVs through December 2021.

Vehicle SalesOver time the mix has changed more and more towards light trucks and SUVs (red).

The percent of light trucks and SUVs was at 79% in December 2021 - near the all-time high.

The fourth graph shows heavy truck sales since 1967 using data from the BEA. The dashed line is the December 2021 seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR).

Heavy truck sales really collapsed during the great recession, falling to a low of 180 thousand SAAR in May 2009.  Then heavy truck sales increased to a new all-time high of 563 thousand SAAR in September 2019.

Note: "Heavy trucks - trucks more than 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight."

Heavy Truck SalesHeavy truck sales declined sharply at the beginning of the pandemic, falling to a low of 308 thousand SAAR in May 2020.  

Heavy truck sales were at 364 thousand SAAR in December, down from 439 thousand SAAR in November, and down 19.5% from 452 thousand SAAR in December 2020.  The decline is probably due to supply disruptions.