A wave of fresh vehicles should combine with pent-up demand to drive U.S. vehicle sales higher this year and next, J.D. Power and Associates predicts.
Automakers are expected to introduce 51 new or redesigned vehicles this year, the most in at least the past five years. And introductions should accelerate next year, when 74 new or redesigned models are due, J.D. Power says.
Over the past four years, relatively few entries and redesigns have flowed out of the pipeline, said John Humphrey, senior vice president of J.D. Power's Global Automotive Division.
"That's changing for 2012, '13 and '14," Humphrey said during the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable here. "We'll have new, exciting products that will generate excitement to get people into dealer showrooms."
Pent-up demand from an aging U.S. vehicle fleet should also drive sales higher, Humphrey said. The average age of vehicles on the road last year hit a record 10.8 years.
Profitability also should improve as automakers cut incentive spending and introduce vehicles with more features, driving prices higher. Average incentives per vehicle have declined to $2,680 last year from $3,018 in 2008. Average transaction prices: up to a record $28,341 from $25,505 in 2008.
Other factors that should drive U.S. sales higher this year:
- A rebound in leasing and extended financing
- More subprime buyers returning to the market
- Improved credit availability
But Humphrey warned that several economic risks could knock that rosy outlook off course. Those include spillover from Europe's debt crisis, geopolitical tensions in the Mideast and a continuation of the sluggish recovery in U.S. employment.