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At 16.6 million units, '03 is 5th best sales year; growth expected in 2004

November 22, 2010
The nation's franchised new-car and -truck dealers recorded their fifth strongest year on record in 2003, selling 16.6 million vehicles at a total sales volume of nearly $700 billion, according to NADA Data, a comprehensive annual analysis compiled by the National Automobile Dealers Association. The complete report appears in the May issue of NADA's AutoExec magazine. It also can be accessed or downloaded on-line at nadadata/ Major incentive programs, enhanced dealership services, increased product quality and a recovering economy contributed to the industry's relatively strong performance. Sales were highest during the third quarter, when the nation's GDP grew a healthy 8 percent. According to the NADA Data report, the light truck category continues to grow, accounting for a record 54 percent (9 million) of total light vehicle sales in 2003, up from 52 percent in 2002. Sales of Crossover Utility Vehicles, based on car platforms, soared 35 percent in 2003, earning the lion's share of growth in the light truck segment. Rising van and pickup sales also helped to boost light-truck sales for the 11th consecutive year, as business spending returned to the market. Paul Taylor, the NADA's chief economist, projects that 2004 light vehicle sales will climb to 16.8 million units. "With the economy gaining momentum and incentives continuing, conditions are favorable for modest growth over last year's sales total," said Taylor. "Interest rates and gas prices are variables to watch. Indications are that interest rates will edge up through the course of the year, though not spike dramatically. "Gas prices are in the consciousness of many Americans, but unlikely to reach levels nationally that will significantly impact buying decisions on a broad scale. However, subtle changes could occur if consumers start to believe that the high prices at the pump are a permanent reality, rather than just a short-term spike." The NADA forecasts that gas prices will recede in the late fall. On the used-car front, sales by franchised new vehicle dealers in 2003 were 19.5 million, up slightly from 19.4 million in 2002. Of these, 11.7 million were retailed and 7.8 million wholesaled. Other highlights from the 2004 NADA Data: • The average retail selling price of a new vehicle increased 5.4 percent in 2003 to $27,550; the average used vehicle price fell 2.5 percent to $13,500; • The average dealership annual payroll was $2.31 million, a $67,000 increase over 2002; the total industry payroll was $50 billion, up $1 billion, representing nearly 11 percent of the nation's total retail trade payroll; • Moderate consolidation in the number of franchised new vehicle dealers continued in 2003, with the net dealership count dropping by 75 to 21,650; • Auctions continue to make inroads as source of used cars, from less than 10 percent in the early 1980s to 34 percent in 2003.