Austin-area auto sales surge in May


Austin-area auto sales bounced back with a vengeance in May, a new industry report shows.

Auto dealers in the metro area saw sales of new vehicles rise by more than 12 percent in May, compared to the same month in 2017, according to Freeman Auto Report, a Dallas-based company that tracks auto sales in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties.

In May, Austin-area dealers sold 12,246 new cars, compared to 10,919 in the same month a year ago, according to Freeman Auto Report.

Auto sales are considered a key indicator of an area’s consumer confidence, as purchases of big-ticket items tend to indicate consumers aren’t worried about their jobs or the economy.

The May sales surge reversed the local sales trend for the first four months of the year. Following a national trend, local sales of new vehicles had dipped by 4.4 percent in January through April, bearing out market forecasts that projected a sales decline following several record-setting years. U.S. auto sales increased every year from 2010 to 2016, hitting a record 17.55 million sales in 2016.

The National Automobile Dealers Association projects 16.7 million sales of new vehicles this year, which would be about 550,000 fewer than last year and 850,000 fewer than 2016.

After January brought a 6.7 percent year-over-year sales increase for Austin dealers, things slowed considerably in March, with a 16.9 percent drop from March 2017, according to Freeman Auto Report’s data.

The downward trend continued in April, with a year-over-year sales dip of 3.8 percent, according to Freeman Auto Report’s data.

But that all changed in May, both for the Austin metro area and across the nation, as Austin-area sales rose by 12.2 percent for the month while overall U.S. sales rose by 2 percent.

“The U.S. economy remains on a favorable trajectory,” Ford Motor Company chief economist Emily Kolinski Morris said during a media call earlier this month. Ford estimated full-year industry sales could fall slightly to the high 16 million to low 17 million range, as automakers trim low-margin sales to fleet customers and deal with an increase in used cars coming off lease to compete with new vehicles.

Factoring in May’s sales increase, Austin-area new vehicle sales were down less than 1 percent for the first five months of the year, compared to the same period in 2017. Through May, local dealers sold 50, 951 vehicles, compared with 51,419 during the same period the previous year, according to Freeman Auto Report data.

Ford pickups remain the best-selling vehicles for Austin-area consumers, as local dealers sold 4,076 of the trucks through the end of May, according to Freeman Auto Report data.

Additional material from the Associated Press.



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