U.S. auto sales may not set new high in 2016 after all: forecasters

Fri Jun 24, 2016 11:47am EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales will grow nearly 5 percent in June compared to a year earlier, but it looks as if 2016 may not break the annual sales mark reached last year, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said on Friday.

"Risks continue to mount for the second half of 2016," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

After assuming a healthy rise to an annualized rate of 17.5 million vehicles in the second half of the year, up from 17.1 million for the first half, 2016 sales would be 0.3 percent lower than last year's record of 17.47 million vehicles, Schuster said.

Last year's sales figure is from industry consultant Autodata Corp.

J.D. Power and LMC said total U.S. light vehicle sales for June would be 1.55 million, up nearly 5 percent from last June. There is one extra selling day this June compared with a year ago.

Auto sales have steadily been rising since they tumbled to 10.4 million vehicles in 2009 during a recession.

Auto company stocks for major automakers have been Wall Street duds over the past several years as investors factored in an expected downturn in the cyclical auto industry. This, despite record earnings and profit margins by the two biggest sellers in the U.S. market, General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote).

"The key going forward will be to what degree automakers are able to adjust production levels to slowing demand rather than relying on profit-damaging incentives," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.   Continued...

Automobiles are shown for sale at a car dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo