U.S. auto sales are set to peak in 2016. The not-so-bad news is, the down slope doesn’t look that steep compared with previous business cycles, said Steven Szakaly, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
In the short run, NADA expects an all-time high in U.S. light-vehicle sales in 2016 of almost 17.5 million new cars and trucks, up from an estimated 17.2 million for 2015. Sales in 2014 were 16.5 million, up 5.9% from 2013.
Auto sales, and the auto finance industry, have a lot going for them. According to Experian Automotive, the auto finance industry is at or near record highs for the size of the average auto loan and for the average monthly auto loan payment.
Szakaly shared NADA’s sales forecast through 2019 on Tuesday, at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich.
After 2016, the dealer association expects sales to taper off relatively gradually, to 16.4 million in 2019, he said.
The existing record for U.S. light-vehicle sales is 17.4 million, in 2000. If sales follow the script and increase in 2015 and 2016, the dealer association said that would be a record seven years in a row of sales increases. The bottom of the present cycle was only 10.4 million in 2009.