May 4, 2021 Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sales of light vehicles totaled 18.5 million at an annual rate in April, above the 18.0 million pace in March. The April result was the first month above the 16 to 18 million range and the fastest pace since July 2005. Unit sales plunged in March and April 2020 to 11.4 million and 8.7 million annual rates, respectively (see chart). The pace of sales in April 2020 was the lowest on record since this data series began in 1976 and follows a run of 72 months in the 16 to 18 million range from April 2014 through February 2020. Recent strength is a positive sign for consumer spending but may also be partially attributed to a potential chip shortage with consumers looking to accelerate purchases before inventories decline and prices rise.

Breaking down sales by origin of assembly, sales of domestic vehicles rose to 13.9 million units versus 13.6 million in March, a gain of 1.7 percent, while imports rose to 4.7 million versus 4.3 million in March, a rise of 7.2 percent. The domestic share came in at 74.8 percent in April versus 75.8 in March.

Breaking down by size of vehicle, April light-truck sales totaled 14.4 million at an annual rate versus a 14.0 million rate in March, a gain of 2.4 percent. Car sales were 4.1 million at an annual rate versus 3.9 million in March, a rise of 5.3 percent (see chart).

The light-truck share stood at 77.7 percent for April, completely dominating the car share of 22.3 percent. The dominant share of light-trucks continues a long-term trend. As recently as March 2013, the split between cars and light-trucks (SUVs and pick-up trucks) was about even, with both segments selling about 7.8 million at an annual rate.

Robert Hughes

Bob Hughes

Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 following more than 25 years in economic and financial markets research on Wall Street. Bob was formerly the head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed equity investment strategy combining top-down macro analysis with bottom-up fundamentals. Prior to BBH, Bob was a Senior Equity Strategist for State Street Global Markets, Senior Economic Strategist with Prudential Equity Group and Senior Economist and Financial Markets Analyst for Citicorp Investment Services. Bob has a MA in economics from Fordham University and a BS in business from Lehigh University.

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