Domestic Car Sales for 2015 Poised to Be a Record

The 2016 Toyota Tacoma gets points for interior detail. THere's a GoPro camera mount near the rearview mirror. (David Dewhurst Photography) - David Dewhurst Photography | Dallas Morning News
The 2016 Toyota Tacoma gets points for interior detail. THere's a GoPro camera mount near the rearview mirror. (David Dewhurst Photography)

Despite pollution-spewing Volkswagens, exploding Takata airbags and failing GM ignition switches, domestic car sales for 2015 appear poised to be the best in U.S. history.

Industry experts predict, based on year-to-date sales and projections for December, that the year’s total sales will top 17.4 million vehicles, beating the previous high sales mark set in the year 2000.

“The economy is strong, interest rates are low, and fuel prices are at the lowest rate since 2009,” said Stacey Doyle, senior auto industry analyst for Truecar.

November’s numbers were strong, continuing steady growth since mid-year. Total passenger and light truck sales for the first 11 months of 2015 totaled over 15 million units, up 5.5 percent from the first 11 months of 2014.

Fiat Chrysler sales were up 3 percent for the month, while GM sales rose 1.5 percent. Ford overall sales were flat, but F-Series truck sales rose 10 percent. Nissan was up 3.8 percent, and Toyota climbed 3.4 percent.

Niche nameplates Land Rover, Scion, Volvo and Alfa Romeo did even better, though their numbers were smaller.

“The auto industry is close to having an all-time best-ever year,” said Toyota vice president and general manager Bill Fay. “We will likely end the year exceeding our expectations with about 2.44 million sales.”

The big numbers have been paralleled by big auto recalls. Volkswagen admitted this fall that it had installed so-called “defeat devices” in millions of its diesel automobiles, in an attempt to evade emissions standards.

That company’s sales for November were off 25 percent, largely due to suspended sales of popular diesel vehicles. But General Motors’ sales for the year have been robust, despite revelations that the Detroit giant overlooked persistent problems with faulty ignition switches on many older models — problems tied to dozens of auto fatalities. Sales at Toyota and Honda have apparently not been harmed by news reports of deaths tied to exploding airbags installed in those automakers’ cars and vehicles made by other manufacturers. Doyle and others said larger economic forces are urging new car sales up. Gas prices, while above 2000 levels, have remained relatively low and relatively stable. Unemployment rates, in addition to interest rates, are also low.

“The labor market and the interest rates create a favorable climate for car purchases,” said Ford’s U.S. sales analyst Erich Merkle.

Another key factor, Merkle said, is the relatively old population of vehicles currently in use. In 2000, the average age of cars on U.S. roads was just under 10 years. Now, Merkle’s research indicates, it’s closer to 12 years old.

Author: Charles Fleming Los Angeles Times

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