Healthy U.S. April auto sales fail to offset growth fears

Tue May 3, 2016 9:51pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit automakers reported another month of strong demand from U.S. consumers for trucks and sport utility vehicles on Tuesday, but their shares dropped as analysts focused on signs the world's second-largest auto market has little room to grow.

U.S. light vehicle sales in April totaled 1.51 million, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier, for a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 17.42 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. WardsAuto said annualized sales were 17.32 million vehicles.

U.S. auto sales in 2015 hit a record 17.4 million vehicles.

Wall Street analysts say the U.S. auto market is close to a cyclical peak and that more production cuts, which hurt profit, could be needed to keep inventories of vehicles from ballooning later in the year.

"We continue to believe sales growth will be muted this year," Joseph Spak of RBC Capital said in a note to investors.

Inventory data issued early on Tuesday pointed to some possible "risk to North American production over the coming months," Spak added.

The sluggish pace of U.S. economic growth adds to concerns that the auto industry recovery could run out of fuel.

April auto sales in Canada were the highest for any month on record, at 200,327 vehicles, consultant Dennis DesRosiers said. Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota all reported double-digit gains in Canada.   Continued...

Vehicles are covered with protective wrap as workers prepare the General Motors automakers display ahead of the media preview of the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan January 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo