U.S. light-vehicle sales dropped 4.7 percent last month as the biggest automakers posted declines and ever-rising incentives failed to shake the industry from its longest slump in years.
April marked the fourth consecutive monthly setback for U.S. sales and extended the longest losing streak since the market bottomed out in 2009. Car deliveries were down again, off 11 percent, while truck volume dipped 0.1 percent. It was the first time monthly light-truck deliveries dropped year over year since Sept. 2013.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate came in at 16.92 million, below forecasts of 17.1 million. Yet automakers remain optimistic even with sales now off 2.4 percent for the year and momentum falling during the key spring selling season.
“When you look at the broader economy, including a strong job market, rising wages, low inflation and low interest rates, and couple them to low fuel prices and strong consumer confidence, you have everything you need for auto sales to weather headwinds and remain at or near historic highs,” Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, said in a statement.
Ford Motor Co. and American Honda fell about 7 percent. General Motors recorded its first dip since January amid a continuing retreat from lower-profit fleet sales. Nissan Motor Co., which has embraced a volume-boosting fleet strategy, ended a five-month winning streak. Toyota Motor Corp. volume fell for a fourth straight month. Fiat Chrysler, also backing off fleet sales, hasn’t seen a sales gain since August.
Overall, analysts expected U.S. light-vehicle deliveries to drop as much as 4 percent. There was one fewer selling day last month than in April 2016.
U.S. volume had slipped 1.6 percent through the first quarter as strong demand for crossovers and other light trucks failed to offset soft car sales. The SAAR fell to 16.6 million in March, the lowest pace since February 2015.