New vehicle sales are on the slide in the first months of 2019, according to research by TrueCar’s data and analytics subsidiary ALG.
It estimates that 1,570,365 units were sold in March, down¬ 1.5% from a year ago, when adjusted for the same number of active selling days in 2018.
The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for total light vehicle sales is an estimated 17 million units for the year.
Excluding fleet sales, ALG expects US retail deliveries of new cars and light trucks in March to be 1,259,018 units, a decrease of 4.3% from a year ago.
Oliver Strauss, chief economist at TrueCar’s ALG, said the dip in sales was expected, adding: “Tariffs and the rising interest rate environment have made consumers a bit cautious; however, both the economy and the auto industry remain strong despite uncertainty about the future.”
While automakers have historically raised incentives in times of economic uncertainty, ALG expects OEMs to continue decreasing their incentive spend. Average incentive spending by automakers should reach an estimated $3,604 per vehicle in March, down 5% from a year ago.
For March, ALG estimates the average transaction price (ATP) for new light vehicles was $34,213, up 2.8% from a year ago, while incentives as a percentage of ATP were 10.5%, a year-on-year fall of nearly one percentage point.
“Incentives are not as rich as they were last year,” said Eric Lyman, chief industry analyst for TrueCar’s ALG. “That’s a sign of balance in the automotive space as automakers are better aligning production and incentive spend with consumer demand.”
He said that GM’s Cadillac and Chevrolet brands are showing the largest improvements in ALG’s Retail Health Index, leading the luxury and mainstream sectors respectively in March.
ALGs Retail Health Index (RHI) assesses whether OEMs are gaining market share through consumer demand or through incentives.