Cox expects Sept. sales volume to fall to lowest since Great Recession

Cox expects the September sales pace, or the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), to fall to around 12.1 million vehicles, its slowest pace since May 2020 when much of the country was shut down in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. That pace is down about 1 million vehicles from August and about 4 million units from the sales rate set in September 2020.

September would mark the fifth straight month of U.S. light-vehicle SAAR declines. In each of those months, the sales pace has declined by more than a million units. Stock on dealership lots has sunk 58 percent since September 2020, down by nearly 1.4 million units, Cox said.

“After a strong spring selling season, the supply situation has worsened precipitously and is dragging sales down with it,” Charlie Chesbrough, Cox Automotive senior economist, said in a statement.

No vehicle segments bolstered sales in September, Cox said. The largest year-over-year decreases were in the midsize car segment at 41 percent and the compact crossover segment at 33.7 percent.

Third-quarter decline

With the September sales drop, Cox expects third-quarter volume to drop 14 percent from a year earlier and 22 percent from the third quarter of 2019.

Consumer demand is strong, but inventory on dealers’ lots has remained sparse. The lack of choices may push about half of would-be car buyers out of the market, according to an August survey by Cox’s Kelley Blue Book team.

Cox expects the chip supply constraints to improve, resulting in a better fourth-quarter selling rate.

“But that doesn’t mean good selling rates,” said Chesbrough.

Still, some automakers have managed the shortage better in recent months, he added.

“Automakers are improving their ability to redirect existing chips to the most important vehicles in their portfolios,” Chesbrough said. “This strategy should support better sales in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.” 

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