December U.S. new-vehicle sales are projected to be up 5.3% year-over-year to 1,254,700, according to a J.D. Power-LMC Automotive forecast.
The combined retail and nonretail sales will occur over the same number of selling days year to year.
The forecasters also see seasonally adjusted quarterly sales up year-over-year by 9.6% to 3,549,800.
Annual sales, though, will be down 8.4% to 13,687,000.
Retail sales alone are projected to have fallen in December, down 2.8% year-over-year to 1,039,200, and for the year, down 11.3% to 11,648,200. Quarterly retail sales are forecasted to be up 1.3% to 2,938,500.
Though retail new-vehicle inventory is improving and therefore boosting sales, finishing its third consecutive month at more than a million units, it still falls short of demand, said J.D. Power Data and Analytics Division President Thomas King.
King said sale prices hit a record high for December, despite slightly increased shopper sensitivity to markups over MSRP, and that dealer per-unit profitability is still nearly double prepandemic levels.
“New-vehicle transaction prices continue to rise—albeit at a slower pace than earlier this year,” King said in a press release, pointing out that the average December price in December was on target to set a record $46,382, up 2.5% year-over-year.
Total retailer per-unit profit was forecasted to be $4,144, down about 20% year-over-year due to reduced dealer markups above MSRP but more than double 2019 figures. For the month, 37% of new vehicles were sold above MSRP, down from 50% in July.