US: New-cars sales to hit highest monthly volume in 10 years image

The solid sales pace in the United States will keep its momentum in March as well, a month expected to bring the highest volumes in a decade, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Kelley Blue Book anticipates the US new-vehicle sales will rise by 8 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.66 million units in March, resulting in an estimated 17.2 million seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), but down from 17.4 million in February. There are 27 sales days this month, two extra ones compared to a year ago, thus pushing the overall volume as SAAR will stay relatively consistent within recent months, says the California-based car valuation and automotive research company.

“The industry continues to maintain its momentum in March as we expect the highest volume of any month in more than 10 years,” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “However, we continue to follow indicators that demand for new cars is weakening, while there is increased incentive spending and an increasing share of fleet sales.”

The 1.66 million units will bring the first quarter total to 4.15 million, which is up 5 percent year-over-year, making this the second highest first quarter on record, surpassed only by Q1 2000. This  could also be the highest March in term of sales since 2000, when they also hit 1.66 million units, and the highest volume of any month since July 2005.

Kelley Blue Book sees Fiat Chrysler as having the best month of all major manufacturers, with double-digit growth for March, driven by the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans, and by the Jeep brand as well. “Small utility vehicles continue to outpace the rest of the industry, as the most popular segment is now averaging 20 percent growth this year,” said Fleming.