Sales Forecasts

KeyBanc dealer survey shows positive used sales start


The newest dealer survey from KeyBanc Capital Market showed the opening month of 2018 was a fruitful one for dealerships’ used-vehicle departments.

According to the results shared Friday, the majority of respondents — 75 percent to be exact — continued to report increasing used-vehicle sales in January.

“We are anticipating a low single-digit used-car volume increase in 2018, driven by positive unemployment trends and continued improvement in off-lease supply,” KeyBanc analysts said.

And closely tied to used vehicles, the survey highlighted that dealerships are enjoying a robust start within their service drives, too.

The survey again showed the majority of respondents — this time 69 percent — continued to report increasing parts and service revenue, maintaining a positive trend in this segment.

“We maintained our low to mid-single-digit P&S revenue growth outlook into 2018, in line with the 2017 trend driven by increasing zero to 7-year-old vehicles, increasing used-vehicle sales that drives reconditioning work into bays and favorable warranty trends,” analysts said.

KeyBanc noted that positive used vehicle and P&S revenue trends should offset a “modest” 0.8 percent year-over-year pullback in new-vehicle sales volume.

“We are maintaining our full-year 2018 outlook of a 2 percent, or 16.8 million vehicles, in line with the midpoint of consensus SAAR range of 16.5 million to 17.0 million units,” analysts said.

No matter whether the stores are turning used vehicles or new models, the KeyBanc report pointed out that overall auto financing and subprime financing availability continued to contract slightly. Analysts added the trend “is not unusual at peak of the cycle, but credit availability remains well aligned with demand.”

And when it comes to gross profit, the KeyBanc survey showed a mix bag of trends.

When it comes to F&I gross profit, 46 percent of survey respondents reported intact gross per unit while another 38 percent reported an increase of about $50 year-over-year.

For gross on used vehicles, about the same number of responding dealers posted a rise of least $50 per unit in January as the ones that sustained a drop of about $50 per unit to open 2018.

Used-car sales show improvement from January

CARY, N.C. - 

If the latest projections from Edmunds are any indication, look for an improvement in retail used-car sales this month.

Edmunds expects February will end with 3.5 million used-car sales, which would beat January’s 3.1 million pre-owned sales.

That would translate to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 39.1 million used cars, up from the 38.9-million SAAR seen last month.

Over at Cox Automotive, the company said in its February Industry Update released two weeks ago that it still is anticipating 39.5 million used-car sales this year, despite a 2-percent year-over-year decline in used sales during the first month of the year.

Nothing that January’s dip “does not materially change the forecast,” Cox Automotive said in the report: “Now that used-vehicle pricing is back to pre-hurricane levels, used sales should pick up momentum for a strong March and April.”

That would perhaps help continue a trend spotted by now retired former Cox Automotive chief economist Tom Webb.

Webb, citing earnings from the companies, said in a tweet Tuesday that same-store used retail unit sales increases for the publicly traded dealer groups have climbed in 33 of the past 34 quarters — albeit with increasingly softer margins.

One of those publicly traded groups is Sonic Automotive, which released quarterly results Tuesday morning and emphasized the momentum in its standalone used-car retail stores.

Sonic’s EchoPark stores enjoyed nearly a 167-percent spike in sales for the fourth quarter, executive vice president of operations Jeff Dyke said in a news release.

“We sold over 10,600 units for the year with nearly 4,500 units retailed in the fourth quarter as our business model is accelerating volume at a rapid pace.  This represents a 100-percent increase in volume for EchoPark year-over-year,” Dyke said.

“We expect our EchoPark brand to sell in the range of 25,000 cars in 2018, more than doubling 2017 volume,” he said. “In just a few years, the EchoPark brand has become nearly 20 percent of Sonic’s total pre-owned volume, and, given the volume increase we are experiencing with our model, we fully expect EchoPark to eclipse the volume we currently produce in our Sonic franchised dealerships over the next few years.”

39.5 million used-car sales expected this year

CARY, N.C. - 

There was a 1-percent hike in used-vehicle retail sales in 2017, according to Cox Automotive, which reported the year ended with 39 million used cars sold.

And look for more growth this year.

The company is anticipating 39.5 million used-car retail sales in 2018.

As for 2017, the year closed with used-car sales climbing 4 percent from December 2016.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for used sales in December was 38.9 million.

Over at Edmunds, the company was projecting late in the month that December would finish with 2.7 million used-car sales, down from 2.9 million in November.

Its used-car SAAR forecast for December was 38.8 million. It finished at 39 million in November.

 Within the certified pre-owned slice of the used-car market, sales reached a seventh straight record year.

According to Autodata Corp., there was an estimated 2,645,718 CPO vehicles sold in 2017, compared to 2,642,986 sold in 2016.

That’s a gain of just 0.1 percent, but it was enough to bump certified sales to their best year on record.

The year closed with 221,126 sales in December, which was down 4.8 percent year-over-year. Dealers moved 624,602 CPO units in the fourth quarter, which was off 2.7 percent year-over-year, according to Autodata.



Where used- and new-car sales could finish November

CARY, N.C. - 

Used-car sales could slide under 3 million units this month, but the seasonally adjusted annualized rate is still projected to approach 39 million sales.

That’s according to a forecast released last week by Edmunds. The company is projecting 2.9 million used-car sales for November, down from 3.2 million last month.

However, the used-car SAAR for November is expected to remain steady at 38.9 million, Edmunds reported.

On the new-car side, Edmunds is expecting 1,422,212 sales for the month. That would beat October by 5.3 percent and year-ago figures by 3.5 percent. It would also represent a 17.8-million SAAR.

“Usually, the first two weeks of the month are slow, especially before a holiday,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis, said in a news release. “But this year retailers are pushing the Black Friday bargains throughout the entire month of November, and it’s putting everyone in a buying mood. It also doesn’t hurt that automakers are starting to really sweeten the deals to clear out lingering 2017s and end this year on a high note.”

She added: “While 2017 may have gotten off to a sluggish start, strong sales through the back third of the year are making up for lost time. We expect full-year sales to be over 17 million for the third year in a row, and are still tracking near our forecast of 17.2 million.”

Meanwhile, Kelley Blue Book expects just 1.36 million new-car sales for a 17.1 million SAAR. Likewise, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive have a more moderate forecast than Edmunds, as well, projecting 1,374,102 new-car sales for a SAAR of 17.3 million. 

For retail specificially, J.D. Power and LMC are calling for just under 1.2 million sales.

“The need to clear out record inventories of prior model-year vehicles continues to keep incentive spending aggressive in November,” Thomas King, senior vice president of  J.D. Power's data and analytics division, said.  

He added: “Savvy car shoppers took advantage of additional discounts over the Thanksgiving weekend, and that sales bump will likely push spending to a new all-time high,” King said

Over at KBB, analyst Tim Fleming said: “Following two months of more than 18 million SAAR, we project November sales to return to the low 17 million range. The strong numbers from the last two months were influenced by replacement demand in the hurricane-impacted regions of Texas and Florida, which appears to be largely satisfied at this point. Despite the lower SAAR, this will be the second highest November on record, trailing only November 2016, so more than a few sales records could be broken this month.”


Edmunds: Dealers looking to ‘thin’ inventory this Black Friday

 SANTA MONICA, Calif.  - 

As dealers across the country gear up for what is arguably one of the biggest car shopping holidays of the season, the team at Edmunds announced they anticipate near record deals on new cars this upcoming Black Friday.

Edmunds experts shared they expect this year's post-Thanksgiving car shoppers to find some of the “best deals in years.”

What’s pushing these bargains? It has a lot to do with incentives trends.

"Incentives reached near-record levels in October, so we expect automakers to continue to sweeten savings as the year winds down," said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at Edmunds. "With slower sales of 2017 model year vehicles, automakers and dealers are more likely to leverage fully the Black Friday holiday as an opportunity to thin bloated inventories to make room for 2018 models."

According to Edmunds research, Black Friday accounts for 15 percent of total November car sales. And for dealers, it’s a busy time of year — their traffic roughly doubles during big holidays sales weekends.

Although it will be interesting to see how Black Friday vehicle sales turn out this year, as normally busy holiday weekends earlier in the year were calmer than usual.

For example, according to data from Cox Automotive brands and Dealertrack, Columbus Day weekend car shopping activity took a downturn this year.

This past Columbus Day weekend,’s DataView saw a 5-percent drop in visits and a 1-percent drop in vehicle views compared to the six prior weekends. That said, earlier in the year Presidents Day and Memorial Day saw shopping activity go up by single and double digits, respectively, on dealership websites. 

Even back in October, industry experts were commenting on high incentives, and how the industry has struggled to create additional demand.

“We’re seeing OEMs continue to put a lot of incentive money out there. Inventories in terms of dates and supply are still quite high, so I think there’s been a pretty consistent push for serval months on getting additional demand out there,” Cox Automotive product analytics senior director James Grace said in a phone interview with Auto Remarketing in October.

We will just have to wait and see if recent efforts from OEM and dealers come to fruition this upcoming Black Friday.

3.2 Million used-car sales likely for October

CARY, N.C.  - 

Used-vehicle retail sales have continued tracking at an annual pace near 39 million units, according to a sales forecast released this week by Edmunds. 

The company is projecting 3.2 million used-car sales for October, which would be even with September.

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate for used sales in October would be 38.9 million units, up slightly from the 38.8 million-unit annual pace last month, Edmunds said.

In other analyses, Cox Automotive pegged the September used-car SAAR at 40.4 million, up from 38.1 million in August.

Through nine months of the year, used retail sales were beating year-ago figures by 2 percent, a Cox Automotive spokesperson said in an email earlier this month. The company is forecasting 39.1 million used retail sales for full-year 2017, he said.

In an analysis, Cox Automotive estimates that there was an 8-percent year-over-year hike for used-car sales in September. 

Additionally, Cox Automotive’s data shows a 5-percent increase year-to-date in sales of used cars less than 4 years old through September — and this group has the biggest share of the pre-owned market, the analysis indicates.

One slice of that later-model volume is certified pre-owned cars.

With the best third quarter ever and a sales increase of more than 6 percent in September, the certified pre-owned market passed the 2-million unit sales mark for the year, according to Autodata Corp. 

The market remains ahead of the 2016 pace by one percent, meaning another record year is likely in the works. 

Autodata said there were an estimated 221,902 certified vehicle sales in September, which beat year-ago figures by 6.6 percent.

This capped a record third quarter, where dealers moved 679,367 units.

In addition to besting Q3 2016 figures by 0.5 percent, it was the strongest third quarter on record and the second-best quarter ever for CPO sales, according to Autodata. 

The best?

The second quarter of 2017, which was 2.1-percent stronger than the most recent period.

With consecutive strong quarters on the books, the CPO market has now tallied 2.02 million sales for the year, which beats the first nine months of 2016 by 1.0 percent.


September used sales not expected to see Labor Day or storm-damage lift


Activity over Labor Day weekend and the need for replacement vehicles destroyed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma evidently aren’t going to push used-vehicle retail sales higher this month.

Edmunds analysts said an estimated 3.19 million used vehicles will be sold in September for a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 38.8 million. Those projections are a bit off from what Edmunds reported for August:  3.33 million unit sales or a SAAR of 39.0 million.

On the new-car side, the projection is a bit rosier.

Edmunds forecasts that 1,435,375 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in September for a SAAR of 17.5 million with fleet transactions accounting for 14.0 percent of total sales. This is the highest SAAR so far in 2017. The previous highs were set in January and February, which both had a SAAR of 17.3 million.

Edmunds added this rate reflects a 2.9-percent decrease in sales from August but a 0.4 percent increase from September of last year.

Edmunds analysts say this slight year-over-year increase is due in part to automakers pumping up the deals over the Labor Day holiday; typically, auto sales over Labor Day weekend are 33 percent higher than the average first weekend of a month.

“Labor Day weekend got September auto sales off to strong start,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “Automakers are finally starting to dial up the incentives to clear excess inventory, which we anticipate will continue through the rest of the year.”

Edmunds added that September new-model sales are also expected to get a slight lift from buyers who needed to replace vehicles that were destroyed in the recent hurricanes.

“We anticipate that the recovery from the recent hurricanes will give vehicle sales an incremental boost in September, and will likely continue to slightly lift the market in the months to come,” Caldwell said. “When you have hundreds of thousands of people affected by an event of this magnitude, not everyone will hit the market at once.”

The team at Kelley Blue Book is offering a similar new-car sales projection for September.

New-vehicle sales are expected to rise 1 percent year-over-year to a total of 1.44 million units in September, resulting in an estimated 17.5 million SAAR, according to Kelley Blue Book.

“September will be another opportunity for the first sales increase of the year, as we project slight growth for the industry,” Kelley Blue Book analyst Tim Fleming said.

“While major hurricanes devastated parts of Texas and Florida in the past month, this is driving replacement demand for those drivers with vehicles destroyed,” Fleming continued. “This demand has already started in some areas, but will continue into October and potentially November, as vehicle insurance payouts are received.”

Most consumers are likely to shop used, but with used prices trending upward recently, Kelley Blue Book pointed out some used buyers may opt to purchase new.

In addition, many automakers are offering hurricane relief incentives of up to $1,000. In these areas, car segments are likely to be shopped more, as these vehicles are the most affordable and in plentiful supply. Nationally, demand is still shifting steadily toward SUVs.

Other highlights from KBB’s September sales forecast include:

• In September, new light-vehicle sales, including fleet, are expected to hit 1,440,000 units, up 0.7 percent compared to September 2016 and down 2.6 percent from August.

• The SAAR for September 2017 is estimated to be 17.5 million, down from 17.6 million in September 2016 and up from 16 million in August.

• Retail sales are expected to account for 85.8 percent of volume in September, up from 85.3 percent in September 2016.

After a record year of sales in 2016 and seven consecutive annual increases, Kelley Blue Book’s forecast for 2017 calls for sales in the range of 16.8 and 17.3 million units, which represents a 1 to 4 percent decrease from last year.

Harvey numbers: 49 inches of rain, 366K new models potentially impacted

CARY, N.C. - 

With now Tropical Storm Harvey taking at aim at Louisiana and other locations inland after dumping 49 inches of rain near Houston, experts from Cox Automotive and Edmunds are looking to project how much this natural disaster is going to impact vehicle sales.

Meanwhile, the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association is organizing a fundraising effort to help people impacted.

Perhaps Edmunds executive director of industry analysis Jessica Caldwell summed up the entire situation when she stated, “Harvey is an unprecedented storm and it’s going to take time to fully comprehend exactly how much it will impact the automakers.

“Texas is the second largest auto market in the U.S. so an event of this magnitude is going to make a dent in sales,” Caldwell continued. “Edmunds estimates 2 percent fewer vehicles will be sold in August due to Harvey, with declines likely continuing into early September.

“In subsequent months we’ll likely see a slight localized bump in sales as the recovery takes hold and people are able to buy replacement vehicles,” she added.

Edmunds estimated there are approximately 366,000 new vehicles on dealer lots in Texas that could be affected by Harvey. Caldwell pointed out many of these vehicles are high-profit trucks and SUVs, “so the automakers will feel a slight pinch, at least in the immediate term.”

Edmunds projected there are between 150,000 and 200,000 units of new inventory that could be affected in the areas hardest hit by Harvey in the Texas cities of Austin, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio.

Edmunds added that Texas makes up 9 percent of U.S. retail sales and is the No. 1 truck market, accounting for 14 percent of all full-size truck sales so far this year.

To put that metric into perspective, analysts tabulated one out of every five vehicles sold in Texas so far in 2017 was a full-size truck.

Texas is the top sales market for Ford, RAM, GMC, Cadillac and Mitsubishi, according to Edmunds’ data.

Over at Cox Automotive, chief economist Jonathan Smoke uncovered information throughout the company’s portfolio of service providers, including Autotrader,, Dealertrack, Kelley Blue Book, Manheim, NextGear Capital, vAuto and Xtime.  As a result, Smoke indicated Cox Automotive revised its August new-model forecast of 16.6 SAAR to 16.3, based on the hurricane and its aftermath delaying the turns of 20,000 to 40,000 new vehicles.

“However, September will likely get a mild boost from delayed purchases and the beginning of the market’s recovery, driven by the need to replace damaged vehicles,” Smoke said. “That process will likely last months, pushing higher sales in the region in 4Q. We are looking at impact to full-year SAAR. Initial estimates indicate a potential net improvement on full-year sales once replacement sales pick up in earnest.”

Federal officials said on Tuesday that they obtained a reading of 49.32 inches of rain being recorded at a location southeast of Houston. Officials said Harvey is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 6 to 12 inches through Friday over parts of the upper Texas coast into southwestern Louisiana as the storm is projected to move further inland into Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia this weekend.

“A Texas-sized storm requires a Texas-sized response, and that is exactly what the state will provide,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said. “While we have suffered a great deal, the resiliency and bravery of Texan’s spirits is something that can never be broken. As communities are coming together in the aftermath of this storm, I will do everything in my power to make sure they have what they need to rebuild.”

And NIADA is looking to help with the rebuilding effort.

The NIADA Foundation has established an emergency relief fund to provide a venue for members of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association to assist fellow dealers and others in the automotive community devastated by the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Steve Jordan, CEO of NIADA and president of the NIADA Foundation Board of Trustees, said 100 percent of all contributions received will be donated to provide relief from the effects of flooding, help repair property damage and assist with other disaster-related needs attributable to the catastrophic weather event that struck Houston and other areas along the Texas coast.

Jordan said the foundation's goal is to raise $100,000 for the fund.

Donations will be made in collaboration with the Texas IADA – NIADA’s state affiliate – and will be considered on a case-by-case basis as identified through the collaborative disbursement relationship.

“We are committed to helping our friends and colleagues in the automotive industry get through this trying time,” Jordan said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected or displaced by this massive storm.”

The NIADA Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that serves as the focal point of NIADA’s charitable efforts and coordinates the association’s charitable giving. Individuals can contribute by going to this page.

While region residents still are dealing with the storm, Smoke uncovered that they aren’t necessarily shopping for or taking delivery of vehicles.  

Since the storm came ashore this past weekend, Smoke noticed websites in the market have seen an almost 40-percent drop in vehicle shopping research compared to the previous weekends in August.

“This is a significant number as powers over 60 percent of dealer websites,” Smoke said.

Smoke noticed an even steeper drop in Dealertrack business within where Harvey dumped rain.

“Our Dealertrack credit application system has experienced a roughly 80-percent drop in activity in the affected area. Since most cars are financed, that’s an 80-percent drop in business since the storm came ashore Friday,” said Smoke, who also pointed out that 80 percent of U.S. franchised dealers use Dealertrack to submit credit applications electronically to finance companies.

Used-car sales picture for August, July

CARY, N.C. - 

There are likely to be fewer used-car sales this month than there were in July, but the seasonally adjusted annualized rate should stay in the neighborhood of 39 million units.

Edmunds released a forecast Thursday projecting 3.3 million used-car sales for August, which would be down from 3.4 million in July. The resulting used-car SAAR for August would be 39.0 million, down from 39.2 million in July, Edmunds said.

In a separate analysis on the used-car market, CompetitorPro found that average used-car sales per store at franchised dealerships in its database for July was 58.4 vehicles, with average days to sell at 35.3. The company had total used sales for franchised dealerships in July at 1.13 million.

For independent dealerships, the firm found that average used-car sales per store within its database was 185.3 in July, with average days to sell at 16.7.  Total used sales among independents was 166,400.

The data is based on internal VIN analysis on dealership websites (which are publicly accessible) by CompetitorPro. There were 19,307 franchised dealers in July’s data set and 898 independent dealers.

CompetitorPro counts individual franchises as separate dealerships.

VSC penetration forecast into 2024


Colonnade Advisors offered quite a bullish forecast for the penetration level of vehicle service contract purchased by consumers that should make F&I managers and VSC providers smile now and seven years down the road.

The boutique investment bank and registered broker dealer providing investment banking services to F&I firms and other financial services companies released a new white paper that showed the macro fundamentals in the VSC industry are “compelling,” and the industry demonstrates growth, strong margins and recurring cash flow. Analysts computed the industry already totals $33 billion at the retail level and comprises a large and important component of automotive sales and profitability.

“New entrants and consolidators should enjoy industry tailwinds for several years,” Colonnade Advisors said in the white paper.

The firm highlighted the market size of the “sweet spot” for aftermarket VSC sales is estimated to continue to grow and cyclically peak in 2024. Despite the recent dip in new-vehicle sales, analysts insisted the market for the purchase of VSCs to cover following the expiration of an OEM warranty is increasing.

Colonnade Advisors estimated 85 million vehicles had a VSC attached in 2016 with the penetration growing to 108 million vehicles by 2024.

The white paper pointed out that consumer demand for VSCs is significant. Authors cited other studies that stated an estimated 46 percent of Americans do not have cash on hand to pay for an emergency expense of $400 or more.

“As the average age of vehicles increases and drivers hold their cars longer, the need for protection plans is increasing,” the firm said.

“These vehicles typically outlive their OEM warranties and have higher maintenance needs, creating demand among consumers that are increasingly accustomed to buying vehicle protection products,” the firm continued.

“Dealership margins remain under pressure, and F&I products provide significant profitability,” Colonnade Advisors went on to say.

Analysts went on to discuss another element of the VSC space, insisting the pace of mergers and acquisitions is increasing. Why? Colonnade Advisors noted demand from investors, low interest rates and availability of capital.

“Private equity is attracted to the industry by its high margins, strong cash flow, fragmentation and growth and making platform and add-on acquisitions to existing portfolio companies,” the firm said. “More and more, industry participants are considering vertically integrating, potentially disrupting market dynamics among the pure plays.

“Administrators, seeking to grow revenues and improve margins, are acquiring to increase and protect product distribution, improve scale and capture more of the value chain,” the firm continued.

“Sellers and administrators are bringing the payment plan function in-house. Insurance companies, looking to preserve books of business or enter the industry, seek the acquisition of administrators,” the firm went on to say. “Colonnade Advisors expects strong demand for well-run companies in this industry to continue.”

Colonnade Advisors’ entire white paper that explores trends, growth drivers and M&A in the VSC industry can be downloaded here.