US auto sales continue monthly recovery in August, but fall on year: analysts

US automotive sales in August slid over 10% from the same period last year, but buying activity showed signs of recovery on a monthly basis, according to industry consultants.

Industry analyst Cox Automotive said sales reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 15.2 million units in August, rising from an SAAR of 14.6 million units in July, according to a newsletter Sept. 9.

The higher buying activity in August marked the fourth month of continuous month-over-month improvement, Cox added.

Still, August numbers declined about 11% from August 2019.

However, Cox said dealerships did not benefit from a Labor Day boost in sales, with the holiday weekend falling fully in September this year as opposed to last year.

“All eyes now turn to watch September’s sales pace and volume, which will be important indicators of the recovery’s strength,” Cox said.

In a separate report, Cox senior economist Charlie Chesbrough said the selling rate in August demonstrates a base-level demand for new vehicles, but sales are still constrained by a number of factors.

“There are headwinds holding back sales — limited inventories, fewer cash incentives — and those likely suppressed some activity as potential buyers could not find what they wanted,” he said.

Consulting firm JD Power provided similar numbers for the US vehicle market with total vehicle sales in August estimated at an SAAR of 15.1 million units, according to a recent report.

On an SAAR basis, August sales were down from 17.1 million units in August 2019 but up from 14.6 million units in July, according to JD Power data.

Like Cox, JD Power said September will likely benefit from the full Labor Day weekend and its heavy sales promotion activity.

“The unusual gap between the August close and Labor Day weekend means there is the potential for higher-than-average promotional activity and, therefore, stronger sales,” Thomas King, JD Power’s president of data and analytics, said.

“Consumer demand coupled with any inventory improvement could help the industry take another step forward in the recovery.”

— Nick Lazzaro