U.S. auto sales forecast to plummet in third quarter as chip shortage plagues industry

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  • Industry forecasters estimate vehicle sales were less than 3.4 million from July to September, down between 13% and 14% from a year earlier.
  • The severe decline, including a massive drop in September, is due to an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips for new vehicles.
  • Edmunds expects General Motors and Ford to see the biggest declines in third-quarter sales, at 31.5% and 29.3%, respectively.

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DETROIT — US auto sales are expected to fall in September, with purchases of new vehicles down at least 13% in the third quarter as chip shortages disrupt production, New Industry estimates.

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Forecasts from Cox Automotive, Edmunds and JD Power/LMC Automotive estimated vehicle sales in July to September at less than 3.4 million, down between 13% and 14% from the same time last year, when the coronavirus pandemic struck. The reason was low volume.

The severe decline, including a 26% drop from 24% expected in September, is due to an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips for new vehicles.

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The shortage of parts has caused automakers to shut down plants sporadically for weeks if not months. The lack of production combined with strong consumer demand has led to a decline in the inventory of vehicles.

“The entire US auto industry – including Asian manufacturers, which were doing slightly better than their domestic counterparts until recently – is in an incredibly volatile state right now and we are seeing an increase in retail prices across the board,” said Jessica Caldwell, said the executive director of insights at Edmonds.

Stock remained short throughout the year. Forecasters expect sales of just 1 million vehicles in September, which Cox Automotive reports will be the lowest volumes in a decade.

The sales momentum in the US market has been falling every month since peaking at 18.3 million in April. It is expected to increase from 12.1 million to 12.2 million in September.

Cox analysts forecast that vehicle supply will improve marginally in the fourth quarter, and will continue to improve throughout 2022, but will not return to “normal” until 2023 — if ever. Automakers have promised to keep low inventory in future to boost vehicle profits and prices, which have been at record levels.

JD Power expects the average trading price to hit a new all-time high of $42,802 in September, the fourth month in a row that exceeds $40,000.

“The mismatch between strong consumer demand and limited inventory is leading to higher vehicle prices,” said Thomas King, president of the data and analytics division at JD Power.

Most automakers that sell vehicles in the US are due to report third-quarter sales on Friday. Ford Motor is expected to report its sales on Monday.

Edmunds expects General Motors and Ford to see the biggest declines in third-quarter sales, at 31.5% and 29.3%, respectively. An outlier for the quarter is forecast to be Hyundai/Kia, which will be a 10.1% increase over Edmunds’ forecast. Cox Automotive also expects Tesla’s third-quarter sales to increase by about 26%.

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