Steel Markets

U.S. Auto Sales to Surpass 17 Million in 2019

Written by Sandy Williams

Total light vehicle sales are likely to reach 17.1 million units this year, down 1.4 percent from 2018 and above 17 million for the fifth straight year, says J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. As usual, sales were strongest for SUVs and trucks.

U.S. auto sales rose for most foreign automakers during November. Toyota sales increased 9 percent, Honda 11 percent and Hyundai 6 percent on a year-over-year volume basis. Industry analysts projected November sales of about 1.18 million units, using estimates for Ford, FCA and General Motors which only report quarterly sales.

Trade War Remains a Concern

Although domestic sales are doing well, the Trump administration is creating challenges for U.S. automakers regarding investment and exports. Auto execs say they are watching trade talks carefully and monitoring their brands sold in China.

General Motors has the largest share of sales in China of the three Detroit automakers. GM sales in China dropped 9.8 percent in 2018 to 3.6 million vehicles. So far there doesn’t seem to be any bias against U.S. brands, said GM CEO Mary Barra, but she sees China as a “volatile” headwind for the company in 2020.

Ford lost $565 million in China during the first three quarters of 2019 and is trying to stabilize its business operations, said CEO Jim Hackett during the company’s last earnings call. Ford clearly would like the U.S. and China to reach an agreement.

“We encourage the U.S. and China to find a near-term resolution on remaining issues through continued negotiations. It is essential for these two important economies to work together to advance balanced and fair trade,” said a statement from Ford.

During the LA Auto show, Daniel Weissland, president of Audi of America, told CNBC the company is controlling what it can when it comes to Trump administration’s trade and regulatory policies.

“To be honest, I don’t really worry much because I can’t influence it,” Weissland. “I think as a company you always need to be ready to react. Things can change within days, easily, and we see that almost every day. So, I think you need to have a certain flexibility.”


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