Auto sales over the past five years have been on a fast track, reaching record numbers. But that trajectory seems to be easing, with sales in March missing expectations.
Overall, U.S. auto sales jumped 3.2 percent to 1.59 million, the best March since 2000, according to Kelley Blue Book. Analysts, however, had expected sales to reach an annualized pace of 17.3 million vehicles. The annualized rate, seasonally adjusted, fell to 16.6 million in March, the lowest in 13 months, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota all missed projections for March.
What does all of this mean? Demand is waning, as signaled by a surge in sales incentives by automakers that includes longer-term loans. Automakers spent an average of $3,110 on incentives per vehicle last month, 14 percent more than a year earlier, according to Autodata.
Overall, brisk SUV and truck sales just managed to offset falling car sales. Some automakers had to raise the discounts on cars, or sell more to rental companies. That trend could result in better deals for car buyers in coming months.
Despite the overall easing in sales growth, Ford, Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Hyundai and General Motors all reported increases, largely fueled by sales in SUVs and trucks.