US vehicle sales defy expectations with highest year on record

Vehicle sales in the US are on a successful streak, with year-on-year increases now maintained for seven years

  • By Kim Darrah | Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Sales of new cars boosted the industry, particularly in December, with dealer incentives drawing in reams of buyers

The US motor vehicle industry has achieved its most successful year on record, with sales reaching 17.465 million units, up from last year’s record of 17.396 million, according to data from WardsAuto2016 marked the seventh year in a row of rising sales in the industry, presenting a remarkably consistent recovery.

Furthermore, the numbers defied expectations, presenting an encouraging result for the US economy, especially given the fact that vehicle sales are often considered an early indicator of the shape of consumer spending. Sales outpaced expectations by the bulk of industry experts, largely due to a surge in December. A key factor in this sales rush was a range of extra incentives, with carmakers vying to lure buyers with heavy discounts.

General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Volvo, and Volkswagen/Audi all posted double-digit year-on-year growth for December

This success was spurred by a particularly good month for General Motors – the industry leader – whose sales in December rose by 14 percent from the same month in 2015. General Motors was not the only company to publish double-digit growth from this time last year, with Honda, Nissan, Volvo, and Volkswagen/Audi all following close behind in terms of year-on-year growth for December.

Key factors in stimulating the year of successful sales were low gas prices and cheap borrowing. Thus, forecasted rate hikes and rising oil prices could be cause for concern for the coming years. Nevertheless, many remain optimistic. “Key economic indicators, especially consumer confidence, continue to reflect optimism about the US economy and strong customer demand continues to drive a very healthy US auto industry”, said Mustafa Mohatarem, Chief Economist at General Motors, according to Reuters.