New-Car Sales Likely Up 14 Percent in December Vs. Prior Month

Numbers for the final month of 2017 represent a 5.8 percent drop from industry-record tallied in December 2016, according to recent projections. 

JANUARY 5, 2009; ORLANDO, FL -- Toyota Tundra full size trucks sit on the lot at the Toyota of Orlando car dealership in Orlando, Florida, January 5, 2009. (photo by Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg News)
Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New-vehicle sales are ending the year on a strong note, with December expected to show a 14 percent increase from the prior month, according to estimates released Wednesday.

Nearly 1.6 million new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. this month for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.7 million, according to Edmunds research. 

Earlier this month, the National Automobile Dealers Association estimated 16.7 million new cars and light trucks will be sold in 2018.

While a double-digit increase from November, the tally marks a 5.8 percent decline from December 2016, which was a record month for the automotive industry.

“Auto sales got off to a sluggish start in 2017 but managed to finish in a fairly decent place,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “Even though December sales were down year over year, we expect it to be the highest-volume month of 2017."

Shopper traffic to dealerships should pick up after the Christmas holiday as automakers increase incentives to eke out as many sales as possible before the end of the year, she added.

Based on its forecast for December, Edmunds expects full-year new-vehicle sales to reach 17.2 million in 2017.

“Sales are still strong historically, but 2017 will mark the first down year for the auto industry since 2009. With sales tapering off, we could be in for a high-stakes incentive war in 2018 as automakers and dealers fight for consumers in a smaller and highly saturated market,” Caldwell said.