The Automotive News Research & Data Center reported an 8.5% surge in U.S. light-vehicle deliveries in the first quarter as the global semiconductor chip shortage waned.
Although transaction costs were still at unprecedented levels and interest rates have risen dramatically, auto sales remained strong, with both General Motors and Hyundai Motor Group experiencing double-digit growth in the first quarter. The industry’s annualized selling rate is also soaring, jumping to 14.1 million a year eariler to 15.3 million in 2023.
"Anyone looking for signs of a recession won't find it in the new-vehicle market," Cox Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough tweeted.
Fleet sales drove much of the first-quarter increase. Ford reported 37% higher fleet sales across the industry, and though it didn't break out its fleet sales, the automaker reported an 86% increase in transit van sales, most of which go to commercial buyers, compared to the same quarter a year earlier.
GM reported fleet sales jumped 27% and comprised 25% of first-quarter volume, roughly 150,000 units. Overall, the automaker reported its sales rose 18% to about 600,000.
Hyundai Motor saw a 19% sales increase year-over-year as Hyundai and Kia brands experienced record sales.
However, Toyota Motor Corp. reported deliveries declined for a third consecutive month as the Toyota brand slipped to No. 3 in the U.S. behind GM and Ford. Both Toyota and Lexus have suffered from tightened inventory levels in the last few months.
Stellantis had a 9.1% dip in first-quarter salest, with a 20% drop at Jeep and a 6.8% drop at Ram. However, the automaker saw increased volume at its Dodge and Chrysler divisions. U.S. sales for the company have fallen for seven straight quarters.
Pricing reached a record $45,818, up 3.5% from March 2022, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. TrueCar put the average transaction price at $45,397.
Jeff Schuster, executive vice president of global data at LMC Automotive, predicts a larger market rebound if prices moderate.
"While the outlook has improved slightly, any true strength in recovery once fleet sales are replenished will hinge on vehicle pricing," he said in a statement.
Schuster suggested that if pricing dropped by 10% from current levels and a recession didn't become too severe, there would be a lot of pent-up demand for new vehicles.