The U.S. market for new cars and light trucks shifted back into a higher gear in April.
Sales tallied 1.36 million vehicles last month, up 10 percent from April 2022, LMC Automotive said Wednesday, with retail sales around 1.06 million and fleet sales of approximately 296,000, or around 22 percent of industry volume.
Of the seven automakers that report monthly, Honda Motor Co. surged, Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. edged up, and Hyundai and Kia racked up sales in April for the ninth-straight month, signaling pent-up demand remains healthy even as rising interest rates cool the U.S. economy and consumer confidence.
Higher inventories combined with more generous rebates at many automakers are supporting retail volume, analysts say.
The seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate, after dipping below 15 million to 14.9 million in March, rallied to come in at 16.15 million last month, Motor Intelligence said, well above forecasts and April 2022's 14.52 million reading. The pace of sales tallied 16.12 million in January and 15.04 million in February, making April the hottest month since May 2021.
LMC, citing rising inventories and more stable production, raised its forecast for 2023 U.S. sales for the second month in a row and now expects the industry to generate 15.3 million new car and light-truck deliveries this year.
“The U.S. market continues to surprise on the upside, despite the cautious tone that is dominating most views in the industry," said Jeff Schuster, head of forecasting and analysis for LMC Automotive. "Consumers remain resilient and fleet sales appear to be heading toward a more substantial recovery."
U.S. auto sales rose 8.4 percent in the first quarter behind healthy retail demand and robust fleet volume as automakers tackle a backlog of orders from commercial, government and rental customers.
Ford said deliveries rose 3.8 percent in April, with the Ford division up 5.6 percent but Lincoln off 28 percent. The automaker said truck sales increased 21 percent, offsetting an 11 percent decline in crossover and SUV demand. F-Series deliveries jumped 35 percent to nearly 70,000, offsetting lower Ranger and Maverick volume.
Ford Motor's U.S. sales have now increased five straight months year over year. The company said it ended April with gross U.S. car and light-truck stocks of 376,600, down from 405,100 at the end of March.
Strong light-truck deliveries offset weaker car volume at Toyota last month, with the automaker's overall sales rising 0.7 percent to 186,310 on very tight supplies. Sales dipped 2.2 percent at the Toyota division but jumped 22 percent at Lexus.