U.S. Car Sales Down Nearly 30 Percent in January from Last Month

Projections also mark a decline from year-ago sales in what is typically a period where dealerships see a post-holiday slowdown.

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Business is not usually booming in January for new-car sales, and this year is no exception. 

Just over 1.1 million new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. this month for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, of 16.7 million, according to projections released Wednesday by Edmunds.

The tally reflects a 29.8 percent decrease in sales from December 2017 and a 1.4 percent drop from January 2017, noted the provider of auto information. 

"Typically you do see a drop, December is one of the best months, and January is one of the worst, so you have that hangover effect," Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds, said in a phone interview.

While the first month of the year brings the excitement that comes with auto shows, "in terms of auto sales, January is usually pretty blah," she added. 

U.S. auto dealerships start seeing signs of life in March, with new-car sales picking up as consumers recover from holiday spending and as winter weather fades, Caldwell said.

Sluggish January sales are also expected as a result of severe winter weather in many parts of the country.

Edmunds estimates that retail SAAR will come in at 13.4 million vehicles in January 2018, with fleet transactions accounting for 19.5 percent of total sales. 

An estimated 3.1 million used vehicles will be sold in January 2018, for a SAAR of 38.9 million, versus 2.7 million—or a SAAR of 38.7 million—in December.