September US auto sales reflect pressures of current market conditions, projection of 1.3 million units

September US auto sales reflect pressures of current market conditions, projection of 1.3 million units

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Demand remains static, with current events casting a shadow
over potential Q4 momentum

US light vehicle sales in September should remain relatively
unchanged from the month-prior result, according to S&P Global
Mobility, which projects sales volume of 1.30 million units for the
month. For optimists, that auto sales levels remain steady in wake
of still palpable “affordability” issues of rising interest rates
and slow-to-decelerate new vehicle pricing levels are a good sign.
For pessimists, the daily selling rate metric in September will
reflect continued deceleration from the monthly readings realized
from March-July.

For certain, the outlook for the remainder of the 2023 remains
even cloudier given the UAW strike against GM, Ford and Stellantis.
While sales impacts for September are limited, the production
disruptions caused by the strike will have ramifications for
potential sales levels moving through the fourth quarter. Impact
will be determined by the length and expansion of shutdowns beyond
the current plants.

“Impacts from the UAW strike will be immediate in regard to US
vehicle assembly volumes, however sales impacts primarily by way of
dwindling inventory on specific models and secondarily via
potential for sustained high vehicle pricing, will be lagged, and
dependent on the breadth and depth of the respective plant
shutdowns,” reports Chris Hopson, principal analyst at S&P
Global Mobility. “Light vehicle sales in September are projected to
reflect an unspectacular SAAR of 15.2 million units, reflective of
the current market conditions.”

According to Joe Langley, associate director at S&P Global
Mobility, “While the UAW strike started with three vehicle assembly
plants, it signifies the beginning of a potentially long-lasting
and damaging strike. This strategy aims to gradually intensify
pressure on the manufacturers in the coming weeks with more plants
expected to strike. With the three plants on strike along with the
related effects of the impact on other facilities, our current
estimates of daily losses stand at just over 4,000 units (assuming
straight time). Further UAW strike actions could ultimately lead to
cumulative losses reaching hundreds of thousands of units.”

Regarding inventory levels, which will be a closely followed
metric if/when the UAW strike is sustained, the industry continues
its year-long trend of seeing dealer-advertised inventories drop at
month-end, then surge through the first two weeks of the following
month.

“However, if you smooth the peaks and valleys to a trend line,
it is a pretty stable climb of about 50,000 units of incremental
inventory per month this year,” said Matt Trommer, associate
director of Market Reporting at S&P Global Mobility.
The available dealer advertised inventories
– not counting
listed vehicles that have sold – were at 1.6 million as of the week
of Dec 22, 2022, and have since increased to 1.966 million as of
the end of the week of Sept 11.

US Light Vehicle Sales

Sep 23 (Est)

Aug 23

Sep 22

Total Light Vehicle

Units, <span/>NSA

1,297,000

1,328,526

1,124,297

In millions, SAAR

15.2

15.0

13.6

Light Truck

In millions, SAAR

12.1

12.0

10.7

Passenger Car

In millions, SAAR

3.1

3.0

2.9

Source: S&P Global Mobility (Est), U.S. Bureau of Economic
Analysis

Continued development of battery-electric vehicle (BEV) sales
remains a constant assumption for 2023 although some month-to-month
volatility is expected. September 2023 BEV share is expected to
reach 8.2%, similar to the month prior reading and pushing
year-to-date BEV sales growth to an estimated 53%. Looking at the
remainder of the year, beyond potential future pricing developments
by Tesla, a sustained churn of new and refreshed BEVs will continue
to promote BEV sales as the year progresses.


This article was published by S&P Global Mobility and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.

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