Auto Bloodbath: Lowest Domestic Auto Sales In Three Years Despite Record Inventories And Incentives

Tyler Durden's picture

After abysmal March and April prints and growing speculation on Wall Street that auto sales are looking less like a "plateau" (Ford's term) and more like a debt-fueled bubble on the verge of a "2007-like" collapse (Bloomberg's term), analysts were looking toward May auto sales for signs of hope. Unfortunately, the "hope" fizzled for the 5th straight month as overall auto sales declined again, with domestic light vehicles sales printing at an annualized 12.59 million, the lowest sales number going back more than three years, with GM missing badly even as its dealer inventory rose to a post-bankruptcy record "channel stuffing" high, while those carmakers who did beat expectations, did so by using record incentives and discounted sales to rental and other fleet customers (such as Ford).

Here's the math: domestic car sales continued their decline on a year-over-year basis, although there was a silver lining within SUVs and pickup trucks, which rose for many manufacturers. May car sales came in at an annualized 4.50 million units (according to Stone McCarthy calculations), compared to April's pace of 4.80 million, and last May's 4.98 million. Light truck sales declined in May to 8.09 million compared to the 8.32 million selling pace reached in April, and below the 8.13 million units sold a year ago. In total, May domestic light vehicle sales fell to 12.59 million units, below expectations and far below April's 13.12 million selling pace. In fact, as shown in the chart below (blue column) this was the worst monthly print going back more than three years.

This was the worst six month drop in domestic light vehicle sales going back to the depths of the financial crisis.

A breakdown in units by OEM, shows another similarity to 2007: while domestic car sales plunged by almost 8%, light truck sales continued to grow as more Americans once again buy SUVs instead of sedans, a growing problem for Hyundai, which saw a 19% drop in its car sales (even if its light truck sales also tumbled).

While every US automaker posted an annual decline, one name stood out, Ford, which reported a 2.3% increase in total light vehicles sold. There was a reason for that: without discounted deliveries to bulk customers, Ford’s sales would have dropped in May, as actual consumers cut back on purchases.

Describing the May number, Jessica Caldwell, executive director of Edmunds, said “it’s a bit of smoke and mirrors" as carmakers “really pushed the deals over the holiday weekend to prop up their May numbers."

According to Bloomberg data, the industrywide selling rate including imports, slipped in May to about 16.8 million light vehicles, compared with 17.2 million a year ago. This would mark the third straight month of a sales pace short of 17 million, which last happened in 2014, and the fifth months in a row of declines. The ongoing slump reinforces estimates for the U.S. auto market’s first annual contraction since 2009 while on a year-over year basis, the Y/Y decline was the worst since 2011.



There's more bad news.

All of the above numbers would have been far worse if not for generous incentives, and automakers spending what amounted to a record sum on incentives to support slumping sales and clear growing dealer inventory. According to J.D Power, incentive spending reached a record of $3,583 per vehicle in May.

And yet, despite all that discounts and incentives, inventories keep growing, and in May the average number of days a vehicle spends on dealers’ lots has topped 70 for the first time since 2009, during the depths of the industry’s crisis. “Continued elevated incentives reflect the challenges of balancing record levels of inventory and are likely to remain elevated unless production is adjusted to meet consumer demand,” said Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power.

As Bloomberg notes, "while a pace of more than 16 million is historically strong and plenty profitable, slower sales have saddled automakers with too much inventory and precipitated bigger discounts. “We will see more production cuts, particularly in passenger cars,” Autotrader's Michelle Krebs said. And nowhere will the cuts be more acute than at GM, which as reported earlier ended May with a record 963K units in dealer inventory, or 101 days of supply.

"After seven years of growth, sales were bound to reach a plateau" Krebs added, and despite OEMs' refusal to accept reality, what happens next is clear: it's all downhill from here.

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JedClampIt's picture

GM and Ford were up BIG on the day, because, you know, everything is AWESOME!!

Stormtrooper's picture

When that incentive gets to $35,830 per vehicle, give me an call and I might be ready to buy.

VK's picture

Poof and its gone. The financial economy is carrying on in its deranged manner while the real, underlying economy is deteriorating. Vehicle sales declining, good jobs going away, poor wage growth, high real inflation, retail sector shutting stores at a record pace and cost of healthcare rising 9% per annum for the last thirty years all set to bankrupt USSA. Not to mention mindboggling sums of debt and unfunded promises.

Joebloinvestor's picture

My plan is to go car shopping in sept.

Should get 0%.

Fisherman Blue's picture

End of the Q is good idea but what does 0% do for you when you pay 5k to much for the car.

Déjà view's picture

Usually...very best time...last few days in a calendar year...
Business is
Dealers take a bruising...pump total year sales numbers for manufacturers...

chomu's picture

Wake me up when the OEMs ask uncle sam to start PAYING US to take their highly depreciating assets

schrock's picture

Good thing houseing is going through the roof like it was in 07/08 so people can do a HELOC for those $80,000 vehicles.

roddy6667's picture

Don't laugh at these people. When they lost their job, at least they didn't lose their vehicle because they couldn't make the payments.

Consuelo's picture



"After seven years of growth, sales were bound to reach a plateau" 

And now shall come seven years of auto sales Hell.


 "A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine."  

Nor the rotting auto inventory...

GeezerGeek's picture

Can I get a bigger measure of wheat for a wheat penny than for that junk metal they call a penny nowadays? The new ones are only good for making washers.

DaBard51's picture

How much is that in Bitcoin?  Etherium?  Imperial credits?



When nine hundred years old you become, look this good you will not.

San Pedro's picture

Over priced foreign and domestic Junk. Insurance / registration costs are outrageous. Vehicle maintenance has become cost prohibitive.  

dogballs's picture

I hope to drive my 7 year old Lexus for another three years. Lexus says they now offer convenient haggle free buying experience. What do we look like, dumbasses? Fuck them.

Dilluminati's picture

The car buying experience in PA anyway is pretty bad.  Trying to get an OTR (on the road)) tax tags, fees is really not a fun experience in the age of Amazon.  I had car dealers simply lie, make any distorted claim in advertising, I decided not to buy.  I'll await when they actually get hungry which if it takes awhile will be fine.  But serious note: I had dealers tell me that the internet price was wrong, when I contacted about the internet price of the car on the lot, verfified it was on the lot, again they lied and quoted a newer year model.  "It was as if" they were advertising liquidation specials of previous year specials and steering sales to current year models and I wasn't in a mood to be sold, I simply wanted to buy a car.  I'll go back when the models they tried to steer to are older and try again, they lie again, I hit on google review again.

It was pathetic and really the car buying experience in our area anyway unprofessional and insulting.


Déjà view's picture

Old 'Bait & Switch' tactic...lucky for hook produced only a scratch...
Most of the time...if it sounds to good to be is!

GooseShtepping Moron's picture

Do you have Carmax in PA? I had a very good experience there.

Ajax_USB_Port_Repair_Service_'s picture

The local Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat dealer's lot was full last year. Now this year, they've changed the spacing between the cars/trucks. The cars/trucks used to be spaced about 4' apart, now they are spaced about 2.5' apart. I'd estimate at least 700 vehicles total and some appear to actually be parked on the highway right-of-way. It's total grid lock. It would be entertaing to watch them try to get a vehicle out of the middle of the mess.

schrock's picture

Just for the fun of it you should ask to test drive one of the vehicles right smack in the center of the mess, and then change your mind right after they hand you the keys.

GeezerGeek's picture

Perhaps if they weren't charging around $90,000 for a Dodge Challenger (okay, it's a souped up version and every teenage hotrodder's wet dream) they could sell more cars. Some of those Mustangs and Camaros are up in that rarified air too.

yellowsub's picture

Despite record inventories?!  Isn't that because no one is buying?  Why continue to make them?

bshirley1968's picture

Its either make them and hope someone starts buying or go broke.  They can't stop.  Got to make them debt payments, got to make them pension payments, got to keep the wheels of debt based industry turning.......

Can't lower price either.....because that would mean they would have to sell even more units to make their debt payment.

Debt is in the driver's seat.....pun intended.

11b40's picture

I was just going to say because they couldn't afford to quit, but you did a better job of 'slpainin the situation.

Tom Green Swedish's picture

GM and also Ford (got lucky and refinanced).were texhnically bankrupt in 2008 along with all the banks. Took 4 trillion at zero percent interest to kick the can down the road. Wonder how they get out of the mess they created. We have no growth debt to the sky and a 600 billion dollar trade deficit a year.. We have nothing besides some decent military equipment. Good luck with that.

godiva chocolate's picture

Sick to death of researching the prices, doing my homework, know what a good and fair price should be only to sit down to do numbers and the dealer tacks on a $1000-$2000 charge for bullshit I never wanted.  Paint protection, a few years of small dent removal, upholstery cleaning, car washes, mud flaps etc.  Any good deal suddenly goes to shit after somebody adds in $1500 for bullshit.  Quit playing those kind of games if you want to sell cars.

Crush the cube's picture

ObamaCar, if we don't want your cars, you can keep your cars.

Kalashnikov545's picture

Very wise ancient Chinese proverb says... Fuck'em!

Hemiskull's picture


Canadian auto sales surge to record high in May - BNN

dogballs's picture

Because you're all going to be living in them soon.

CRM114's picture


but the 4.7% annualized increase in Canada equates to +100,000 vehicles sold,

and the 1.0% annualized decrease in the USA equates to -500,000 vehicles sold,


So the manufacturers are still Up Sh!t Creek and looking for a paddle (even if they are in a very nice Canadian canoe ;) )

Midas's picture

They will be sliding down a shit-rope according to Mr. Leahy.

InnVestuhrr's picture

Truck & SUV sales are going strong, the problem is the passenger cars. I jst ordered a Ford truck from the factory, 16-20 week wait time, that does NOT sound like a demand problem to me.

SantaClaws's picture

May be a factory location problem.  I.e., they don't want President Trump to know where the factory is.  Mexico?  China?  Vietnam?

Farmerz's picture

What possibly is so special on the truck you ordered that you simply could have just done a dealer trade and gotten 99% of what you wanted within days??

InnVestuhrr's picture

Can't get all the features I want for towing & cargo, eg engine, transmission, tow & load package, rear axle, wheels, etc


NOT GET all the features that I don't want for wasting my money on manufacturer & dealer profits, eg trim upgrade packages

in stock trucks on dealer lots.

Tom Green Swedish's picture

Its crash time folks load up on 120 spy puts for 2018 or 2019. Auto sales declining. Growth Declining. Mortgages Declining. Trade gap increasing. Debt is equal to the the market cap of the entire stock market. However we did add 250,000 minimum wage jobs and used up some oil. Id say we have reason to go up at least another 15 percent this year.

11b40's picture

Are you applying the Fed discount to those puts?

roddy6667's picture

Don't worry. It's not bad everywhere. GM makes and sells more cars here in China than in America. They also make more profit, even though they have to split the profits with a partner company. They are building a new Escalade factory outside Shanghai now.

The average auto worker here makes $5.75 an hour US. That sounds low, but the workers do not spend their money in America. That pay buys a decent middle class lifestyle here. That worker has good working conditions, job security, health insurance, a pension, owns a home and all the consumer goods a Westerner would have, takes vacations, sends his kids to college without loans, and most amazing of all, saves 36% of his pay for the future.

What would an American worker have to make to match this lifestyle? What would a car cost?

Buster Cherry's picture

How's the air over there?

Is it transparent today?

roddy6667's picture

The air is the same color the air was in America when it had industry and jobs. Places like Pittsburg, Bethlehem, Birmingham, and Detroit had bad air, gray snow, and dust on everything. Every country that has gone through the msnufacturing phase of development has had this. In the Fifties and Sixties Japan was massively polluted. Most people are too young to remember. 

Do you remember the color of snow in Pittsburg? Do you remember the color and taste of the air in LA? Do you remember when the Great Lakes were so polluted that nobody could eat the fish?

I didn't think so.

Silverlok's picture

not to worry nickel lives matter: cars for a job and a nickle: ( bacause our inventories are) packed

Cockoo's picture

In the Oakland Bay area they are already, offering semi deals a Toyota Tacoma truck for $21,729 MSRP $23,815.  Toyota is offering 2017 SR? for $21,729, w/incentive while the same type of truck 2016 is offered for $23.494 and $22,994 both sticks the last two.

Some dealers are trying to curb the bloodbath that is coming and sell what they can ASAP imagine some dealers will take a major hit by the end of 2017. Supply is out stripping demand for vehicles in 2017.

Road Hazard's picture

Next time all you car manufacturer CEO's get together with your friends from the Fed. Reserve, other "captains" of industry and peers at your next Bilderberg child raping party, thank each other for destroying the dollar, killing off the middle class, stagnating wages and taxing us all to death.

Your cars aren't moving because the people that buy them don't have money. (If somebody needs an economics expert, you can hire me for weekends and birthday parties.)

On top of that, because of the weak dollar, your cars are too fucking expensive.

In the mean time, enjoy watching inventory pile up. Every day on my way home from work, I pass a few dealerships and keep seeing cars spilling over into overflow lots. Quite funny. One of these days, a big dealership or two is going to get the bright idea to torch his fleet, throw down some Syrian passports and cash out.

I don't need a new car but I would LOVE to go into a dealership right now and get a bargain. Being that it's a buyers market, BIG TIME, I'm 100% confident I could get them to knock off THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS from MSRP just to move a vehicle. Last year, we got a dealership to knock about $6,000 off MSRP on a new minivan. I'd love to go again but need to pay this one off first. :)

For years, dealers have fucked people over with their shitty tactics and inflated prices. Time to pay the piper, boys!

JailBanksters's picture

I see the US car industry as the worlds biggest new car cycler

They exist purely to make cars so they can recycle them back into newer cars.

They refuse to change, the government won't let them die, so why should they change.

tbone10's picture

Hahahaha burn mofos burn!!!