bluevetteJ.D. Power, a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions announced today that  new-vehicle retail sales in May have returned total sales above the 15-million unit selling level for the month.

New-vehicle retail sales in May are projected to come in at 1,157,900 vehicles, which represent a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 12.5 million units, the highest level since January. This will be the third consecutive month with retail sales in excess of 1 million units. Retail transactions are the most accurate measure of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles.

The full-size pickup segment is contributing to the overall strong sales pace in May, accounting for 11.4 percent of industry retail sales, an increase from 11 percent in April and up from 9.7 percent in May 2012.

J.D. Power also reports strong demand for full-size pickups is helping to keep industry average transaction prices at record levels. The average transaction price for all new vehicles thus far in May is $28,921, the highest ever for the month of May and 3 percent higher than May 2012. Several components are contributing to strong industry transaction price performance, including: low interest rates, which help keep monthly payments low; the use of extended-term vehicle loans—72 months or longer—which also help reduce monthly payments; strong used vehicle values, which equate to more trade-in equity; and strong new-vehicle residual values, which lower new-vehicle lease payments.

“New-vehicle transaction prices have risen by 19 percent during the past six years ($28,921 in May 2013 from $24,404 in May 2008), and the average monthly payment for new-car buyers and lessees has increased only 3 percent ($455 in May 2013 vs. $443 in May 2008),” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power & Associates. “This market dynamic is enabling consumers to purchase new vehicles with improved fuel economy, safety and technology at an affordable monthly payment.”

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive U.S. Sales and SAAR Comparisons

May   20131 April   2013 May   2012
New-Vehicle   Retail Sales 1,157,900   units(8%   higher than May 2012) 1,032,321   units 1,070,816   units
Total   Vehicle Sales 1,439,400   units(8%   higher than May 2012) 1,285,750   units 1,332,663   units
Retail   SAAR 12.5   million units 12.1   million units 11.5   million units
Total   SAAR 15.2   million units 14.9   million units 13.9   million units

1Figures cited for May 2013 are forecasted based on the first 10 selling days of the month.

North American Production

North American light-vehicle production year to date through mid-May is up 4 percent, compared with the same period in 2012. Most major manufacturer volumes are either flat or up slightly, with the exception of General Motors, which is down 4 percent on the transition of the Impala and weaker large SUV sales ahead of the new models for 2014.

Vehicle inventory levels in early May are at 3.2 million units—a 63-day supply—and consistent with the current level of demand. Inventory was at a 55-day supply in May 2012.

LMC Automotive is increasing its forecast for 2013 North American production to 16.0 million from 15.9 million units. With this increase, 2013 will mark the first time production in the region has been at the 16 million-unit level since 2002.