US light-vehicle sales recover in February, moving higher y/y

Written by David Schollaert

US light-vehicle (LV) sales rose to an unadjusted 1.25 million units in February, up 9.6% vs. year-ago levels, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported. The year-on-year (y/y) growth in domestic LV sales was boosted by a 6% month-on-month (m/m) gain.

On an annualized basis, LV sales were 15.8 million units in February, up from 14.9 million units the month prior, and ahead of the consensus forecast, which called for a notable growth to 15.4 million units.

Auto sales recovered from the slowdown seen to kick off the year, helped by milder weather conditions last month. Even though February’s sales were 6.9% below the pre-pandemic average for the month, it is the closest things have been to the pre-pandemic benchmark since June 2023.

That trend has been aided by an uptick in production, improving inventory levels to start 2024 – roughly 40% higher y/y – gradually improving product availability, chiefly in the affordable vehicle segment.

The average daily selling rate (DSR) was 49,901 – calculated over 25 days – up from February 2023’s 47,448 daily rate. Passenger vehicle sales increased 8.8% y/y while sales of light trucks moved higher by nearly 10% over the same period. Light trucks accounted for 80% of last month’s sales, roughly the same as its share of sales in February 2023.

Below in Figure 1 is the long-term picture of sales of autos and lightweight trucks in the US from 2019 through February 2024. Additionally, it includes the market share sales breakdown of last month’s 15.8 million vehicles at a seasonally adjusted annual rate.

The new-vehicle average transaction price (ATP) was $47,244 in February, down 0.3% from January. Last month’s ATP was also 3.1% (-$1,519) below the year-ago period, according to Cox Automotive data.

Incentives recovered last month after they had decreased in January – moving lower for the first time in four months. February’s incentives were $2,565, up 9.3% vs. January, but still 2.6% behind December’s 31-month high of $2,633. With the m/m increase, incentives are nearly 5.4% of the average transaction price. Incentives are up more than 92%, or $1,230, y/y.

In January, the annualized selling rate of light trucks was 12,683 million units, up 6.3% vs. the prior month and y/y. Annualized auto selling rates saw similar dynamics, up 4.6% and 6.3% in the same comparisons.

Figure 2 details the US auto and light-truck market share since 2013 and the divergence between average transaction prices and incentives in the US market since 2020.

Editor’s Note: This report is based on data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), LMC Automotive, JD Power, and Cox Automotive for automotive sales in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Specifically, the report describes light vehicle sales in the US.

David Schollaert

Read more from David Schollaert

Latest in Automotive