If you're an investor in the automotive industry, this goes without saying: It's a very seasonally affected business. That means comparisons are never perfect, and can be made more difficult as weather and sales promotions can be more or less impactful from one year to the next. For April, investors won't have to worry about difficult year-over-year comparisons; however, April is typically a slower month for total sales. In fact, Edmunds ranks April seventh in terms of average sales volume.
With that said, while the industry's April new-vehicle sales are projected to decline sequentially from March, it still looks to be a healthy month as far as year-over-year comparisons -- and that's good news for investors.
J.D. Power expects new-vehicle retail sales to jump 5% compared to last April, to reach more than 1.1 million units. If that forecast holds up, it will mark the highest retail sales volume in a decade for the month of April. For investors, this is great news because retail sales, rather than wholesale figures, are more indicative of overall industry health and new-vehicle demand -- the latter measures what manufacturers sell to dealerships, not what end consumers drive home.
J.D. Power's forecast also calls for the retail seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, to reach 13.7 million units in April, which again would be the highest April since 2005.
"Overall, auto sales remain strong, a trend that is sustainable throughout 2015 due to consumer demand that is being fueled by 50 new or redesigned models in showrooms this year," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, in a press release. "High year-over-year growth will become more challenging over the next few months, but a slip in the growth rates doesn't change the underlying positive trend."
Perhaps even better yet, in addition to retail sales expected to check in with strong results, average new-vehicle transaction prices are rising. J.D. Power noted that ATPs were on pace to achieve a new April record, currently at $30,680 per vehicle. The previous April record was set last year at $29,948 per new vehicle.
Winners and losers
Here's a look at the sales expectation per automaker from the crew at Edmunds.com.
While General Motors and Ford Motor Company are the standard one-two punch when it comes to total sales volume in the U.S. market, Toyota has been making a push toward the No. 2 spot in 2015. In terms of what to expect going forward, sequentially speaking, sales volume will likely trend higher into the summer selling season.
"In fact, we often think of April as 'the calm before the summer storm.' It won't be long before the summer selldown of the outgoing model-year vehicles, which always draws lots of foot traffic through dealerships," said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell, in a press release.
All in all, business is still good for automakers in the U.S. and greater North American market. Sales of larger, and more profitable, vehicles are surging and average transaction prices continue to move higher.