May Sales Expected to Be Brighter, Says Edmunds, Cox Automotive

While April turned in less-than-stellar vehicle sales numbers, Edmunds has forecast total sales to lift significantly for the month of May when numbers become available at the end of this week.

The group is predicting that 1,565,683 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in May for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 16.7 million. This reflects a 16 percent increase in sales from April 2018 and a 3.5 percent increase from May 2017.

“The summer selling season is off to a healthy start,” said Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds manager of industry analysis, in a press release. “Despite rising gas prices, shoppers are clearly demonstrating their confidence in the strength of the economy as they continue to seek out larger, more expensive vehicles.”

Part of the growth is expected to be due to Memorial Day sales. Automakers are experiencing high inventories, so automakers and car sellers are highly motivated to make the long selling weekend count. In addition, May has averaged the highest volume over any other month for the past five years, partly driven by aggressive holiday incentives and promotions.

“Depending on how shoppers respond, this could set the trend for even sweeter deals as we head deeper into the year,” Acevedo said.

Edmunds has estimated that retail SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) will come in at 13.6 million vehicles in May 2018, with fleet transactions accounting for 18.5 percent of total sales. An estimated 3.4 million used vehicles will be sold in May 2018, for a SAAR of 39.3 million (compared to 3.5 million — or a SAAR of 39.2 million — in April).

Cox Automotive, which is posting similar May sales predictions to Edmunds, is predicting that most OEMs will report higher year-over-year sales in May 2018 compared to May 2017, but this is largely attributable to one extra selling day in May this year. The Jeep and VW brands should continue to perform well, and Fiat-Chrysler is expected to show significant gains. Nissan (which posted large gains in April) and Ford Motor Company are expected to show significant drops in sales from year-to-year.

Consistent with the trend seen all year, car sales are expected to see double-digit declines. Truck and SUV/CUVs share growth will continue, according to Cox, which expects 2018 to finish near 16.7 million, down slightly from the 17.1 million units in 2017.