U.S. new-vehicle sales are expected to decline in August, decreasing the industry's chances of beating the full-year record it set in 2015.
August would be the third time in 2016 that sales declined from a year ago, forecasters said, more evidence that the market may be past its high point. Four forecasts issued last week project sales will fall from 2.1 to more than 5 percent.
"As we look at the remainder of the year, the industry faces an uphill struggle to match last year's performance," Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said in a statement. "With mixed economic signals, it certainly looks like U.S. auto sales may have peaked in 2015. However, it is important to focus on the sustainable high level of demand. Peak does not mean doom and gloom."
The forecasts call for a seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate of 16.8 million to 17.3 million. That would be down from a rate of 17.86 million in July, the highest this year, and 17.79 million in August 2015.
Automakers report August sales results on Thursday, Sept. 1. August has the same number of selling days as in 2015, but this year it has one fewer weekend.
J.D. Power and Associates, which jointly develops LMC's forecast, said incentive spending in the first 17 days of August reached an average of $3,559 per vehicle, $140 more than a year ago and the highest ever for August. That's about $200 less than the record for any month, set in December 2008.
General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are projected to lose the most market share in August, according to the forecasts from Barclays Capital, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com. They show sales falling more than 5 percent for GM and more than 6 percent for Ford. Edmunds expects Ford sales to tumble 9.8 percent into third place for the month, behind Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
The forecasts show sales down slightly for Toyota and up slightly for American Honda. Volkswagen Group of America is projected to continue its streak of declines for a 10th consecutive month.