The U.S. auto industry took yet another tumble in August. Those manufacturers who still announce their sales figures at the end of each month reported declines pretty much across the board. Per industry analysts, transaction prices slipped slightly in August compared to July as well, despite a nearly 4-percent increase over last year's average. There were two fewer selling days in August this year, contributing to reported declines.
Toyota on Tuesday reported a 23% drop in U.S. new vehicle sales in August versus the same month in 2019, as a two-month industry-wide shutdown of auto production in the spring to halt the spread of COVID-19, as well as an uncertain economic recovery, weighed on sales. This was Toyota’s fifth straight month of U.S. sales declines.
South Korean automaker Hyundai said its U.S. sales fell 8.4% in August, largely due to a decline in fleet sales to rental car companies, government agencies and corporations. Hyundai had posted a slight sales gain in July. SUVs made up two-thirds of Hyundai's total retail volume in August, the company said, indicating a further amplification of existing sales trends.
Toyota and Hyundai's slips were too large to be accounted for merely by the decrease in total selling days in August. Mazda's 5.4% slip, by contrast, was actually a 2.2% increase in terms of daily selling rate (DSR), which accounts for the number of days dealerships were open.
Transaction prices also slipped slightly compared to July, but remain up 3.9% compared to the same time period in 2019.
“Vehicles are continuing to sell at higher transaction prices when compared to the prior year even amidst the pandemic,” said Eric Lyman, Chief Industry Analyst for TrueCar subsidiary ALG. “However, we are seeing month-over-month declines in average transaction price since May due to pullbacks on the richer automaker incentives that were in the market at the beginning of the pandemic. Consumers leaned into those offers to upgrade to higher priced trims and models which drove up transaction prices.”
“For the second month in a row, since March, automaker revenue for new vehicle sales will be up month-over-month by almost six percent. This is a positive sign for the auto industry as targeted incentive spending by automakers continue to fuel the recovery for new vehicle sales,” added Lyman.
(This article contains reporting from Reuters.)