Data on unit sales of motor vehicles (light vehicles which include all passenger cars and light trucks up to 14,000 pounds gross weight) are published monthly by Audodata Corporation. Motor vehicle sales are good indicators of trends in overall consumer spending and often are considered a leading indicator at business cycle turning points. In addition, automobile production and the output of related companies like service stations, repair shops and aftermarket parts manufacturers (including supplier and induced impacts) make up over 10 percent of total economic output.
According to Autodata, motor vehicle sales continued to increase in May, rising 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 15.3 million units. This reflects growth across both cars and light trucks, and nearly all major manufacturers reported stronger sales during the month, with only Mitsubishi and Saab (which is out of business) reporting losses. The major domestic manufacturers – GM, Ford and Chrysler – all reported gains, with Ford’s overall US sales poised to pass those of General Motors. In fact, Ford’s monthly sales for May were higher than GMs April sales figures. Nissan, Mazda and Subaru all reported extremely strong percentage gains in sales.
Motor vehicles were one of the industry categories that led the recession, falling from an annualized rate of about 12 million units prior to the recession to a low of about 7 million units. Since that time, growth has boomed reflecting the need to replace older vehicles, and a push toward safer more fuel efficient models. While it is unlikely that these record sales will continue indefinitely, robust growth in this sector has been a leading part of the renaissance in domestic manufacturing and has helped push down unemployment levels from record levels particularly in the Midwest.