U.S. retail sales of new cars and light trucks have fallen 8 percent since the war in Iraq began last week, compared to the same period a year ago, J.D. Power and Associates said.
On Saturday, March 22, retail sales were down 14 percent compared with Saturday, March 23, 2002, said J.D. Power, noting that Saturday typically is the busiest sales day of the week. Sunday's retail sales were down 12 percent, the Westlake Village, Calif., firm added.
But, the marketing information firm says the dropoff was not nearly as severe as the decline after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when sales fell 33 percent in the two weeks that followed, compared with the same time in 2000.
Before the war, March sales were on par with last year's numbers, J.D. Power said.
"What we saw over the weekend was people preoccupied with the war," said Robert Schnorbus, J.D. Power's chief economist. "With the nation's attention now focused on the events in Iraq, we expect retail sales to continue to be down 10 percent, on average, over the remainder of the month."
J.D. Power forecasts March retail sales to be 1.18 million cars and light trucks. That compares to 1.27 million in the same month last year. Excluding fleet sales, J.D. Power estimates a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.1 million, compared with 13.8 million last March.
The company gathers its sales information from its global forecasting department and its affiliate Power Information Network LLC, which collect weekly sales information.
Power Information Network receives new vehicle retail data from 3,245 dealerships in 26 U.S. markets. The data includes U.S. retail sales for cars and light trucks. Fleet sales are not included.