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.”

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