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September retail sales slower, but overall trend remains positive

September 27, 2013
As September draws to a close, it appears the new-vehicle sales pace has slowed slightly from its sprint in recent months, as volume is impacted by fewer selling days and the absence of Labor Day from the month’s tallies.
Yet September sales still are projected to climb 2 percent over year-earlier numbers. J.D. Power and Associates pegs the month’s sales at 933,400 units, taking the seasonally adjusted annualized rate in September to 12.4 million units.
“Although the year-over-year sales gain in September is smaller than has been observed in recent months, it’s important to recognize that September reported sales are being heavily influenced by a quirk on the industry sales calendar,” said J.D. Power’s John Humphrey.
The auto industry reports sales on a sales month basis rather than a calendar month basis. Historically, the Labor Day holiday has fallen in the September sales month; however, in 2013, it fell in the August sales month, meaning that sales delivered over the holiday weekend were counted in August sales rather than September.
J.D. Power estimates that more than 248,000 new vehicles were sold during the Labor Day weekend. Had those sales been included in September, LMC Automotive indicates they would have lifted the monthly SAAR into the low 13 million unit range.
Humphrey said that due to this difference in the sales reporting calendar in 2013, it makes sense to evaluate August and September sales in combination. 
“When combined, August and September retail sales are expected to be up 10.6 percent, compared with August and September 2012, which underscores the continued positive trajectory in growth and overall health of the industry,” Humphrey said.
LMC Automotive is holding its 2013 forecast for total light-vehicle sales at 15.6 million units. However, retail light-vehicle sales are tracking slightly ahead of expectations with the total year now expected to come in at 12.9 million units, a slight increase from the previous forecast of 12.8 million units.
“Even with the timing-driven volatility in August and September, the year-to-date selling rate of 15.5 million units is consistent with expectations of stronger retail-driven growth in 2013,” said LMC Automotive’s Jeff Schuster. “Balancing growth with risk, and with all positive variables perfectly aligned, the automotive market right now is as strong as we’ve seen in several years.”