US new-vehicle gross sales in 2018 rise barely to 17.27 million

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DETROIT (AP) — Gross sales of recent autos within the U.S. rose barely in 2018, defying predictions and highlighting a robust financial system.

Automakers reported a rise of 0.Three % over a yr in the past to 17.27 million autos.

The rise got here regardless of rising rates of interest, a risky inventory market, and rising automotive and truck costs that pushed some patrons out of the new-vehicle market.

Business analysts and automakers stated robust financial fundamentals pushed up gross sales and will hold them close to historic highs in 2019.

“Financial situations within the U.S. are favorable and will proceed to be supportive of auto gross sales at or round their present run charge,” Ford Chief Economist Emily Kolinski Morris stated after the corporate and different automakers introduced their gross sales numbers Thursday.

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That auto gross sales stay close to the 2016 document of 17.55 million is a testimonial to the power of the financial system, stated Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. The job market, he stated, has created new employment, and wage progress has accelerated.

“That’s elementary to promoting something,” he stated. “If there are many jobs and persons are getting greater paychecks, they’ll purchase extra.”

The unemployment charge is 3.7 %, a 49-year low. The financial system is assumed to have grown shut to three % final yr, its greatest efficiency in additional than a decade. Shoppers, the primary driver of the financial system, are spending freely. The Federal Reserve raised its key rate of interest 4 occasions in 2018 however is barely anticipated to boost it twice this yr.

Auto gross sales additionally have been helped by low gasoline costs and rising residence values, Zandi stated.

All of it implies that persons are prone to hold shopping for new autos this yr whilst they develop costlier. The Edmunds.com auto-pricing website estimates that the common new automobile value hit a document $35,957 in December, about 2 % greater than the earlier yr.

It will likely be more durable for automakers to maintain the gross sales tempo above 17 million as a result of they’ve been engaging patrons for a number of years now with low-interest financing and different incentives, Zandi stated. He predicts extra offers within the coming yr as job progress slows and credit score tightens for higher-risk patrons.

Edmunds, which supplies content material, together with automotive ideas and evaluations, for distribution by The Related Press, predicts that gross sales will drop this yr to 16.9 million. Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell says leases will expire on over Four million autos, placing extra folks into the marketplace for new autos but additionally including an plentiful provide of late-model used autos. It’s too early to inform if extra folks will go for used automobiles, vehicles and SUVs, she stated.

“They could be priced out of the market,” she stated. “Rates of interest and buy costs are greater.”

Auto rates of interest averaged round 5.6 % final yr, up from 4.Eight % in 2017, she stated.

The huge shift from automobiles to vehicles and SUVs continued final yr. Vehicles made up solely 32 % of gross sales, whereas vehicles and SUVs have been 68 %.

Right here’s how main automakers fared in gross sales final yr in contrast with 2017:

— Common Motors, down 1.6 % to 2,954,037. The corporate handed 200,000 in U.S. gross sales of electrical autos final quarter, which means its federal electrical automobile tax credit score will begin to expire. The complete credit score will likely be obtainable via March and can progressively be phased out by March 31, 2020.

— Ford, down 3.5 % to 2,497,318. F-Collection pickup gross sales rose 1.Four % to 909,330, and it remained the top-selling automobile within the U.S.

— Toyota, down 0.Three % to 2,426,672. The RAV4 compact SUV was the top-selling U.S. automobile that isn’t a pickup truck. Gross sales rose 4.Eight % to 427,170.

— Fiat Chrysler, up 8.5 % to 2,235,204. The Jeep model posted a document yr with gross sales of 973,227, up 17 %.

— Honda, down 2.2 % to 1,604,828.

— Nissan, down 6.2 % to 1,493,877.

— Subaru, up 5 % to a document of 680,135.

— Hyundai, down 1.1 % to 677,946.

— Kia, flat at 589,673.

— Volkswagen, up 4.2 % to 354,064.

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Economics Author Paul Wiseman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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