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Vehicle Sales, Sales Mix and Heavy Trucks

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by Calculated Risk on 11/03/2021 05:34:00 PM

The BEA released their estimate of light vehicle sales for October today. The BEA estimates sales of 12.99 million SAAR in October 2021 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), up 6.3% from the September sales rate, and down 20.8% from October 2020.

This was well above the consensus estimate of 12.4 million SAAR.

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows 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.
So far – through October – sales are up 9.2% in 2021 compared to 2020.

This second graph shows the percent of light vehicle sales between passenger cars and trucks / SUVs through October 2021.

Over time the mix has changed more and more towards light trucks and SUVs.

Only when oil prices are high, does the trend slow or reverse.

The percent of light trucks and SUVs was at 80.1% in October 2021 – an all time high.

The third graph shows heavy truck sales since 1967 using data from the BEA. The dashed line is the October 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 sales really declined at the beginning of the pandemic, falling to a low of 299 thousand SAAR in May 2020.

Heavy truck sales were at 445 thousand SAAR in October, up from 404 thousand SAAR in September, but down 1% from 450 thousand SAAR in October 2020.

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