Manheim index hits highest point since November as May used sales wobble

ATLANTA - 

Cox Automotive discovered two trends originating in May that might frustrate some dealerships, especially stores that might have landed a bit short of monthly goals. In May, wholesales prices moved higher as used-vehicle sales softened.

Before used-car managers reach for their stress balls, here are the specifics.

Cox Automotive determined wholesale used-vehicle prices (on a mix-, mileage- and seasonally adjusted basis) increased 1.25 percent month-over-month in May. This rise brought the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index to 134.2, which marks a 4.9-percent increase from a year ago and the highest level since last November.

Prices for each of the six vehicle segments Cox Automotive tracks for its index update moved higher in May, with vans leading the way via a 10.2-percent climb.

Coming in roughly at half of that upward price pace were compact cars at 5.7 percent SUVs and CUVs at 5.0 percent. Midsize car prices jumped 4.0 percent, and prices for pickups rose by 2.0 percent.

Even luxury cars squeezed in with a 0.2-percent uptick.

Meanwhile, that slightly more expensive used metal didn’t roll over the curb quite as frequently in May.

According to Cox Automotive estimates, used-vehicle sales volume decreased by 1 percent year-over-year in May. However, analysts contend the annualized pace of used-vehicle sales is up 1 percent over last year.

Analysts also estimated the May used SAAR to be 39.7 million, flat on a month-over-month basis.

So what does all of the May data mean? Cox Automotive offered this clarity with the index update.

“Looking at trends in the weekly Manheim Market Report (MMR) prices, the traditional spring bounce this year started three weeks later than it did in 2016 and earlier years and peaked in April in week 15,” analysts said.

“Used-vehicle prices are now moving down but remain higher now compared to where they were at the beginning of the year than any of the last three years,” they continued. “Price comparisons to last year are starting to get tougher as 2017 saw very low depreciation starting in May and lasting throughout the summer.”

One other note about the wholesale market: Cox Automotive also noticed rental risk pricing strengthened.

Analysts indicated the average price for rental risk units sold at auction in May moved up 8 percent year-over-year. But rental risk prices softened 1 percent compared to April.

Cox Automotive added that the average mileage for rental risk units in May (at 43,000 miles) climbed 11 percent above year-ago readings but dipped 1 percent month-over-month.

Turning the page from the used-vehicle space, Cox Automotive also touched on May new-vehicle sales, which increased 5 percent year-over-year, triggered in part by one more selling day compared to May of last year.

Analysts pegged the May SAAR at 16.8 million, up from last year’s 16.7 million. However, the reading broke the streak of eight straight months of new SAAR coming in at or above 17.0 million.

Cox Automotive stated cars continue to see sharp declines as new sales in May fell 9 percent compared to last year. Light trucks outperformed cars in May and were up 14 percent year-over-year.

Combined rental, commercial and government purchases of new vehicles were up 18 percent year-over-year in May, led by increases in commercial (up 2 percent) and rental (up 30 percent) fleet channels, according to Cox Automotive.

“New vehicle inventories came in under 4 million units for the first time in three months, and inventories are at their lowest levels since January,” analysts said.

Cox Automotive closed its Manheim Index report by highlighting how strong economic momentum continues.

Analysts acknowledged the employment report for May was much stronger than expected as job creation increased to 223,000 when experts had expected 190,000. The prior two monthly numbers were also revised up for a net increase of 15,000 more jobs than originally estimated.

Consumer confidence, as measured by the Conference Board, increased in May to 128, the second highest level for the year and the third best level in more than 17 years.

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