Steel Markets

U.S. Auto Sales, Inventory Down in December

Written by David Schollaert

U.S. auto sales fell further in December to 1.2 million units, down 26.4% versus the same year-ago period, according to LMC Automotive. The results caused the selling rate to decelerate to 12.4 million units annually, compared to 12.9 million units the month prior.

AutoSalesLow inventories continued to plague the market and were the chief cause of the falling selling rate and rising transactional prices as demand outpaced supplies.

North American automakers built fewer vehicles in December – the second lowest monthly total all year – down 14.7% sequentially and down 15.0% year on year. As a result, carmakers steered production to more profitable models, pushing the average transaction price (ATP) for new vehicles to new heights. The U.S. ATP climbed nearly 14% in 2021 and set a record in December at $47,077.

Dealers had little reason to offer generous incentives, which slipped to just $1,516 last month. For the full year, the U.S. market fell short of 15 million units for only the seventh time since 2000, as sales grew by just 2.8% year on year.

Used vehicle inventory rose in December with the days’ supply hitting 51 for the first time since January 2021, according to Cox Automotive. The total supply of unsold used vehicles on dealer lots across the U.S. climbed to 2.38 million units at the end of December, compared to 2.25 million at the end of November. The supply at the end of December was 9% lower than in the same period last year.

The average listing price for used vehicles exceeded $28,000 each of the last two weeks of December, closing the month at $28,205. That’s up from $27,726 in November when the average listing price surpassed $27,000 for the first time. The average used vehicle listing price was up 28% at the end of December compared with the year earlier and 42% higher than at the end of 2019.

December’s auto sales for both new and used vehicles reflected the ongoing effects of the global supply crisis, which experts expect will remain a drag on the market in 2022.

By David Schollaert,

David Schollaert

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