Counting Cars

April Sales Thread: SAAR Falls to Six-Month Low

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(FINAL) April's 4.1% rise in daily sales was the smallest year-over-year gain since August 2011, and marked the fifth consecutive month that year-over-year sales growth has declined.

April 2013 Light Vehicle Sales Volume:
WardsAuto forecast:     1.30 million units
Actual April LV Sales: 1.28 million units

Differential between WardsAuto Forecast and Actual U.S. LV Sales: 1.7%

April 2013 Light Vehicle SAAR:
WardsAuto forecast:      15.1 million
Actual April SAAR: 14.9 million

WardsAuto tracks sales throughout the day. Year-over-year change represents the change in daily sales rate (DSR). April had 25 selling days this year and 24 last year.

FINAL Recap: Detroit 3 auto makers enjoyed a collective 8.7% increase in DSR, with Chrysler reporting its best April sales in six years, while Subaru and Nissan  set April daily sales and volume records for the month and Hyunda had its largest April sales volume ever.

But overall growth was just 4.1% over year-ago - the lowest year-over-year gain in DSR since August 2011 - with European brands falling some 2% below year ago and Asian auto makers outpacing year-ago by less than 1%, As a result, the industry light vehicle SAAR below  WardsAuto's 15.1 million units to roughly 14.9 million, the first time the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate fell below 15 million since October. 

It was also the fifth consecutive month that year-over-year sales growth declined from the previous month. 

Total LV sales reached 1.28 million units compared to 1.18 million units in April 2012.

2:15 Kia reports 47,556 April sales, down 4% on a daily basis from year-ago, but slightly ahead of projections. SAAR sits at 14.9 million units, with ony JLR to report.

1:45 PM: With rest-of-industry sales nearly complete, and Kia the only large-volume brand to report, the SAAR has dipped below Ward's 15.1 million forecast, and teh 15.2 million consensus forecast to 14.85 million units. April will likely mark the first time the SAAR has dropped below 15 million since October.

While most Top 7 auto makers performed near or even above expectations, the rest of the industry largely had a less robust sales month than expected.  European auto makers lagged rest of industry. With Jaguar Land Rover still to report, European brand sales are tracking 2.5% below year ago compared to Asia auto makers (with Kia still to report) which are tracking 1.3% above year ago levels, while the Detroit 3 outperformed year-ago by 8.7%.

Higher volume Japanese companies' including Honda, Nissan and Subaru had year-over-year growth, while Toyota's 5% slip was within the window of expecations for April. But Mazda, Mitsubishi fell well below year-ago levels.

1:00 PM:It looks as though Europeans are running slightly below expecations as a group, pulling the overall SAAR just below forecast levels to roughly 15.04 million units. Still some volume sellers to report, but the seasonal is on the cusp of 15.0 and 15.1 right now. Daimler reports combined Mercedes/Smart/Sprinter LV daily sales nearly identical to year-ago.

12:40 PM: BMW comes in slightly below expecations - with 29,011 BMW and Mini brand deliveries, up 3.9% over like year-ago. SAAR still rounding to 15.1 million, but barely.

12:30 PM: Honda reports daily sales up just 3.1%, well below their own public forecast for the month, though directly in line with WardsAuto's projections. The company's 130,999 vehicles equated to a 5,240 unit daily sales rate, Honda's best DSR since the height of the Cash for Clunkers scrappage program in August 2009. The growth distribution was decidedly in favor of the company's Acura luxury division, which saw its year-over-year sales rate jump 9.6% compared to Honda Div.'s 2.3%.

Porsche sales were up 12.6%. 11:25 AM: Volkswagen and Audi give first glimpse of April European sales. VW brand was off nearly 14% from year-ago, while stable-mate Audi was up 9.6%. (VW declines was the brand's first since August 2010, and it's worst year-over-year performance since June 2009.)

Ford is touting record MKZ sales this month, but the fact remains that Lincoln sales are anemic. Eight Ford brand vehicles from the might F-Series to the enthusiast-fave Mustang outsold the entire Lincoln brand this month - even with total brand sales up more than 20% on volume. 

10:30 AM: Subaru sales were up 20.2% giving the Japanese auto maker its best April ever, and its third best DSR behind December and March. Nissan's daily sales (below) were also a company best for April.

10:00 AM: Ford and General Motors  both improved daily sales considerably over year-ago. Ford reported daily sales up 12.9% over year-ago on 208,428 LV sales, while GM's 237,646 light deliveries raised its DSR 6.9%.

All three Detroit 3 automakers are up, not only for the month, but through the first four months, with a combined YTD improvement of 10.4%.

Nissan, meanwhile, saw its daily sales rise 18.2% over year-ago to 87,847 units.

Hyundai reported its best April volume to date - 63,315 units - but its daily sales rate fell from April year-ago by 2.4%.

9:30 AM: Chrysler kicked off sales reporting this morning, coming in at 155,582 light vehicles, up 6.2% on daily basis over year-ago - directly in line with WardsAuto expectations. 

Toyota followed on Chrysler's heels, also in line with projections, with 176,610 units, down 5% from year-ago. Lower April fleet participation this year versus last played into the auto maker's year-over-year decline, as did waning Prius demand,  as consumer fear over spiraling gas prices has dissipated considerably compared to this time last spring.

 

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John Sousanis

John Sousanis oversees WardsAuto data operations as Director of Information Content, and is Ward’sAuto sales analyst. Follow John on Twitter @CountingCars.  

Haig Stoddard

Haig Stoddard is a veteran automotive industry analyst. His current focus is North America production and longterm sales forecasting.
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