December 2015 U.S. LV Sales Thread: SAAR Dips as Record Year Ends

(FINAL) A hefty drop in the monthly SAAR couldn't prevent U.S. automakers from setting a new light vehicle sales record.

John Sousanis, Director, Information Content

January 5, 2016

4 Min Read
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Forecast vs Reported 


WardsAuto Forecast LV Sales

 1.71 million

December Actual LV Sales

 1.63 million

WardsAuto Forecast LV SAAR   

    18 million

December Actual LV SAAR

   17.2 million

WardsAuto tracks light-vehicle (LV) deliveries throughout sales reporting day. Monthly year-over-year change represents the change in daily sales rate (DSR).  December had 28 selling days this year compared with 26 in 2014, meaning DSR % change will be lower than the straight volume %change for year-over-year comparisons this month.

Related Table 

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Summary table

Overview: An expected surge in December U.S. light-vehicle sales didn't materialize, causing the LV SAAR to drop below 18 million-units for the first time since August. However, U.S. automakers did sell enough LVs to ensure that 2015 was the industry's best year ever.  

Automakers sold a combined 1.63 million light vehicles in December, lifting calendar year sales to a historic 17.39 million units - breaking the prior record of 17.35 million set in 2000. 

Monthly sales were a disappointment, as the industry raised its collective daily sales rate just 1.3% compared with the final month of 2014, failing to turn the 28-selling-day month into a sales bonanza. But it speaks volumes for the kind of year 2015 was that December's 17.2 million-unit SAAR could be characterized as disappointing, with calendar year sales outpacing prior year by 5.8%.

See today's sales report thread below; and see related articles for additional details.

UPDATE 1:45 PM ET: BMW, like competitors Daimler and Audi, had a down month in December, with daily sales dipping 23.6% for the month. The automaker's full-year sales did outpace prior year, though, with a 2.2% gain on 404,537 deliveries in 2015.

Kia, on the other hand, had a good December, outselling same-month year-ago, on a daily basis, by 10.5%, with 54,241 deliveries for the month, pushing full-year 2015 sales to 625,816 - a 7.9% year-to-year gain.

And Volkswagen brand ended a tumultuous year with 30,956 December deliveries, a 15.6% drop in DSR that brought the German marque's 2015 sales to just under 350,000 units, down 4.8% from full-year 2014.

UPDATE: 1:15 PM ET: Audi and Daimler both had lower than expected sales in December, failing to outperform year-ago DSR. Audi delivered 20,399 LVs, down 1.5%, bringing the German luxury marque's full-year sales to 202,202 units - up an impressive 11.1% over a successful 2014.

Daimler sold just under 39,000 LVs for the month, down 5.6% on a daily basis from same-month year-ago. The automaker's deliveries were up 3.8% for the year, to just under 381,000 units.

Honda sales were directly in line with forecast at 150,893 - a 2.1% rise in DSR from year-ago. Honda's full-year sales rose 3% to 1.59 million.

Mazda and Mitsubishi, meanwhile, outperformed the industry as a whole, with 9.6% and 11.9% DSR gains. Mazda completed 2015 up 4.4% on 319,184 sales, while Mitsubish's 95,342 2015-deliveries represented a 22.8% jump over 2014's results.

UPDATE 11:00 AM ET: General Motors, like Ford and FCA, fell somewhat below expectations in December, delivering 290,230 LVs in the month - a 1.8% decline in DSR, that gave GM just under 3.1 million unit sales in 2015, a 5% gain over calendar year 2014. 

UPDATE 10:45 AM ET: Ford sold nearly 232,000 LVs in December, a near-match to year-ago December on a daily sales basis. The results pushed Ford's 2015 light-vehicle sales to 2.55 million units, a 5.4% gain on full-year 2014.

Based on FCA's reported total vehicle sales (including Med./Hvy. trucks) WardsAuto is estimating the company sold just over 216,000 light vehicles in December, a 4.9% DSR gain on year-ago. FCA's 2015 tally was nearly 2.3 million units, a 7.3% improvement over prior year.

Hyundai tweeted its December total of 63,508 - representing a disappointing 8.6% decline in daily sales versus year-ago. For the year, Hyundai sales were up 5% to 761,710.

Nissan's 139,300 LV deliveries were in line with WardsAuto's forecast, and up 10.3% on a daily basis. The strong finish pushed 2015 sales to 1.48 million units, 7.1% above 2014's final tally.

Toyota sold 238,350 LVs in December, a 2.3% DSR gain. For the year, the Japanese automaker sold just under 2.5 million vehicles, a 5.3% improvement over 2014. 

About the Author(s)

John Sousanis

Director, Information Content, WardsAuto

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