TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence didn’t have upbeat news for either dealerships or finance companies looking to turn new metal coming out of the holiday weekend.
The firm’s Auto Demand Index (ADI) — which measures the intent of consumers to buy or lease a new vehicle within the next six months — registered a sharp decline in May, falling 15 points from the previous month to a score of 91. This drop marks the second straight month for an index decline.
Meanwhile, the ADI’s three-month moving average also fell for the second month in a row, indicating what TechnoMetrica believes is a continued deceleration in momentum for vehicle purchase intent among U.S. consumers.
In addition, the share of Americans who plan to purchase or lease a new vehicle within the next six months declined three points from April to 15 percent.
TechnoMetrica president Raghavan Mayur explained the ADI is conducted monthly and is based on the response to a key question posed to more than 900 adult Americans: How likely is it that you will buy or lease a new vehicle within the next six months?
The firm pointed out the weakening in purchase intent is further demonstrated as analysts measured the index against the long- and short-term tracking rates.
May’s ADI score of 91 is 10 points below the 12-month moving average of 101 and trails the six-month moving average of 105 by 14 points. Thus, analysts at TechnoMetrica anticipate that new-vehicle sales will decrease “significantly” in the coming months.
TechnoMetrica contends a number of factors are contributing to the decline in the share of Americans who plan to acquire a new vehicle in the near future.
For instance in April, the cost of living in America rose at its highest rate in three years, according to a recent report from the Labor Department. As the price of gasoline continues to move higher, climbing 8.1 percent in April, and the cost of rent and medical care grows, consumers seem to be exercising caution in their spending habits. As a result, at least for the short term, TechnoMetrica thinks Americans are less likely to purchase higher priced items, such as automobiles.
In addition, as consumers observe the slow growth in the U.S. economy, the firm indicated there is increased concern among Americans over the future state of the overall economy.
TechnoMetrica also mentioned the ongoing presidential campaign season is also having an influence on Americans’ spending plans. The prospect of electing a new president tends to create a sense of unease and uncertainty among consumers, who may be concerned about the impact a new president’s policies could potentially have on the national economy.
“With the economy growing at a slow rate, the stock market still under pressure, and gas prices continuing to climb at a steady pace, there is a rising concern among consumers regarding the future outlook of the American economy,” Mayur said. “These anxieties are encouraging consumers to reassess their purchasing plans, especially regarding more expensive goods and services. Thus, we expect that new vehicle sales will decelerate over the coming months.”
Along with gaining insight into consumers’ vehicle purchasing plans through the Auto Demand Index, TechnoMetrica also measures consumer confidence regarding economic conditions in the country by producing the monthly Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP Economic Optimism Index.
In May, that index gained 2.4 points, or 5.2 percent, from the previous month, registering a reading of 48.7. However, Americans continue to be divided regarding the state of the overall economy, as half of consumers assert that the U.S. economy has not been improving, while 47 percent say that it is improving.
The Auto Demand Index survey also delves into various other aspects of consumers’ vehicle shopping plans, such as which brands prospective buyers are most likely to acquire.
In May, Ford maintained its position as the most preferred brand among consumers who are planning to acquire a new vehicle, with a share of 15 percent. Chevrolet, chosen by 13 percent of likely buyers, moved into second place in May, overtaking Toyota, which captured a 12 percent share of consumers. Meanwhile, nearly one in 10 prospective buyers (9 percent) are likely to acquire a Honda for their next vehicle purchase, a decline of two points from the previous month.
Regarding the types of vehicles consumers prefer, mid-size vehicles remain the most popular selection among likely buyers, as just over one in five respondents (21 percent) chose this vehicle type, a decline of two points from April.
Small SUVs were named by 16 percent of likely buyers as their preferred vehicle type, a rate unchanged from last month. Similar shares of consumers (13 percent) identified compact and full-size vehicles as the types they would most likely purchase as their next vehicle. Rounding out the top five, pickup trucks were chosen by 12 percent of likely buyers, a gain of one point from last month.
In terms of demographics, parents, male adult drivers, and Americans ages 25 to 44 showed the greatest increase in purchase intent in May.
In each of the three segments, the ADI levels grew by six percentage points, to 151, 111 and 121, respectively. The most significant drop in purchase intent was shown among Americans residing in the Northeast, who displayed a 19-point decline from April, along with drivers age 18 to 24, whose ADI score decreased by 17 points.
Respondents living in suburban areas and those 65 and older also reported sharp declines in intention to acquire a new vehicle.
Each month, TechnoMetrica uses Random Digit Dial telephone methodology to conduct live interviews with more than 900 respondents, using both landlines and cell phones. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.2 percentage points.
In addition, recent statistical analysis has shown a strong correlation between the Auto Demand Index and actual U.S. vehicle sales. The correlation is 0.76.