U.S. light-vehicle sales in September are expected to fall from unusually high levels a year ago, when new car and truck demand surged in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Forecasts from Cox Automotive, Edmunds and J.D. Power/LMC Automotive project sales of about 1.4 million vehicles this month, a roughly 6 to 8 percent slide from September 2017.
"Year-over-year comparisons are challenging this September, as the industry saw record sales levels last year," Charlie Chesbrough, Cox senior economist, said in a statement. He also noted that September has one less selling day than a year ago and there's less replacement demand from seasonal factors compared with a year ago.
J.D. Power/LMC expects sales to decline 6 percent, while Edmunds forecasts an 8.3 percent drop. Cox predicts sales will be down 7.2 percent. Automakers are scheduled to report September sales on Tuesday, with transactions closing on Monday, Oct. 1, counting toward September.
All three of the forecasts call for the seasonally adjusted annual rate for September to rise to or above 17 million for the first time since June. That still would be well below the SAAR of 18.2 million in September 2017, when replacement demand and delayed purchases after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas resulted in the highest selling rate since 2005.
"Vehicle replacement demand following Hurricane Harvey bolstered auto sales last September, and Hurricane Florence has had a very limited impact on auto sales this month, which are the primary reasons why we're seeing this year-over-year decline," Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds' manager of industry analysis, said in a statement.
J.D. Power said sales in the Carolinas through the first three weeks of September were down 12 percent because of Hurricane Florence, which hit East Coast states this month and caused massive flooding.
While substantial, the damage caused by Florence, a Category 1 storm, was minimal compared with other hurricanes, such as Harvey, that hit more densely populated regions and generated significant replacement demand.
U.S. light-vehicle deliveries have increased 1.1 percent this year through August. Even with strong economic and employment growth, many analysts expect demand to soften the remainder of the year as rising interest rates, trade fears and higher new-vehicle prices discourage some consumers.