January fleet sales edged higher than expected, easing the decline in new-vehicle sales, according to fresh data from Cox Automotive. Total fleet sales rose 10% year over year in January to nearly 216,000 units, driven mostly by an increase in sales to rental car companies.
In January, 67% of fleet vehicles were sold to rental car companies, up from 64% year over year. Overall January new-vehicle sales dipped to 1.1 million units, short of the 1.2 million-unit forecast.
Sales remained flat as “most of the nation fell under the grip of a brutally cold polar vortex,” Cox Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said in a statement. The government shutdown may have also negatively impacted consumer confidence, Cox Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough added.
“Had it not been for a big increase in fleet sales into rental in January, the new vehicle SAAR could have been even lower than the 16.6 million estimate we have,” Smoke said. Cox Automotive anticipates fleet growth to decelerate this year and retail sales to face continued challenges with affordability, pricing, and interest rates.
Cox forecasts new-vehicle sales will decline 2.9% to 16.8 million units this year.
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