Positive economic fundamentals drive US light vehicle sales beyond initial expectations in the first quarter of 2013

Worries about economic conditions continue to fade for US consumers

09 Apr, 2013, 14:23 ET from Ernst & Young LLP

DETROIT, April 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Although there may still be a hint of concern about the economy, the need to replace older vehicles combined with the influx of new and refreshed models is continuing to entice buyers, according to Ernst & Young's Global Automotive Center. 

During the first quarter of 2013, sales of light vehicles reached just over 3.4 million units, a 6.6 percent gain compared to the same period in 2012, an increase beyond initial expectations.

"Light vehicle sales have been strong so far this year as consumers seem unfazed by the higher payroll taxes and ongoing government budget debate," said Andy Sale, Americas Automotive Leader for the Ernst & Young organization. "In addition, vehicle sales are expected to be strong moving into the second quarter as the spring sales season begins, new vehicles are launched and attractive interest rates drive consumers to dealer showrooms."

Despite spikes in gas prices, sales of light trucks were up 10 percent for the quarter compared to the same period in 2012, due to upticks in construction and housing. The crossover/utility vehicle segment also added to the truck gain, as it experienced an increase of 17 percent over the same period as well. The strength of the crossover market was driven by sales of new models as well as consumers feeling more confident about their financial health. Mid-size and small car deliveries rose marginally by 2.8 percent over the first quarter of 2012.

Sale also says the US market is expected to hit the 15-15.5 million units range by year end thus continuing its recovery towards achieving the pre-recessionary, annual sales level of 16-17 million units. 

Consumers are slowly viewing the general state of the economy in a more positive manner as wages and spending have risen, housing demand and mortgage refinancing is up and unemployment dropped in February to its lowest rate since December 2008.

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SOURCE Ernst & Young LLP