U.S. retail sales rate projected to hit highest mark in nearly 5 years
Photo credit: Bloomberg
DETROIT -- An influential auto forecasting firm today said it expects August to yield the highest U.S. retail sales rate in four-and-a-half years.
LMC Automotive projected the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales to individual buyers at 12.3 million units. The overall SAAR, which includes fleet sales, is forecast to reach 14.5 million vehicles, on par with this year's high of 14.47 million in February.
"The strength in August light-vehicle sales takes some of the pressure off expectations for the balance of the year, but a high level of risk lingers," Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said in a statement. "We expect the current seesawing in auto sales to continue for the foreseeable future, but the overall picture in 2012 remains positive."
LMC and four other independent forecasters see August's selling pace falling within the range of the year's previous seven months.
TrueCar.com issued the lowest August projection, an overall SAAR of 13.9 million, the same as May. LMC's forecast of 14.5 million was the highest.
IHS Automotive said today it is forecasting a 14.1 million sales rate for August. In July, it lowered its full-year 2012 outlook to 14.3 million, down from 14.4 million.
Barclays Capital Inc., in a report released this afternoon, expected a 14.2 million SAAR for August and stood by its annual forecast of 14.4 million vehicle sales.
"While unemployment and consumer sentiment data haven't supported U.S. sales, we believe that these factors are being more than offset by the solid financing environment, improved housing data, and high pent-up trade-in demand from former new car buyers of 2004-08 who still own their vehicles," the report said.
"We reiterate our 2012 U.S. sales estimate of 14.4 million, as we believe these factors will persist, and likely fuel stronger sales paces toward the end of the year."
Through July, 8.4 million light vehicles were sold in the United States, up 14 percent from a year earlier. July sales rose 9 percent.
But citing consumer and business uncertainty from Europe, the November presidential election and the prospect of a Congressional deadlock, some analysts are lowering full-year forecasts. Both LMC and TrueCar.com earlier this month cut 200,000 units from full-year outlooks and are now at 14.3 million, and Morgan Stanley last month slashed its forecast to 14.4 million, 400,000 units lower.
In 2011, U.S. auto sales totaled 12.8 million.
Automakers will release their August totals on Sept. 4.
LMC is the auto forecasting partner of J.D. Power and Associates.
You can reach Jesse Snyder at email@example.com.