U.S. new light-vehicle sales slipped 5 percent in December and dipped 1.8 percent to 17.25 million for all of 2017 -- ending a string of seven annual gains that had propelled the industry to new highs following the 2008-09 market collapse.
After hitting a record 17.55 million in 2016, annual light-vehicle sales fell for the first time since 2009 while topping 17 million units for the third straight year and just the fifth time in history.
Even with the dip in December volume, the seasonally adjusted, annualized pace sales came in at 17.86 million in December, among the year's strongest months.
Car sales slipped 17 percent last month while light truck demand edged up 1.6 percent. For the year, car deliveries slid 11 percent and truck volume rose 4.4 percent.
Among leading automakers, General Motors, Toyota, FCA, Nissan and Honda posted declines in U.S. deliveries in December while Ford advanced.
Ford’s 1.3 percent increase marked its fourth straight monthly gain. GM fell 3.3 percent and FCA US was off as both companies pared back shipments to daily rental companies. Volume dipped 8.3 percent at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., 9.5 percent at Nissan North America and 7 percent at American Honda, though Nissan and Honda both set sales records for the year.
The results come in comparison to a robust December a year earlier, when the fifth-highest seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of all time was recorded.
Analysts had forecast that December would mark the 10th monthly drop of 2017 -- despite being the strongest month for raw volume.
“In 2017, we had solid GDP growth and good news on employment, wages and consumer sentiment, which helped deliver very strong retail sales for the auto industry,” Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, said in a statement.
He forecast that light-vehicle sales this year will be in the high 16 million-unit range as income gains stemming from U.S. tax reform are offset by rising interest rates.