On Monday, the major automakers delivered better than expected September US sales.
“According to Autodata, sales reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.76 million,” Business Insider’s Akin Oyedele reported.
“Analysts had forecast a rate of 17.45 million, according to Bloomberg.”
There’s been widespread debate among auto industry observers and analysts over whether the US market, which set a sales record at 17.5 million in 2015, has peaked and is headed for a cyclical downturn.
In September 2015, the US sales pace came in above 18 million; that’s why last month’s sales slipped, year-over-year.
But 18 million was a torrid pace. For September 2016 to come within striking distance of that, as we head into the fourth quarter, suggests that the US market may a have a bit more oomph left.
Incentive spending has been creeping up, but before we start thinking that automakers are juicing sales at the expense of profits, we should remember that customers are buying a lot of high-margin pickups and SUVs. So discounting is, in the short term, affordable.
If October sales also post above 17.5 million, the discussion will pivot. We won’t be asking if a decline is on the horizon. We’ll be asking whether 2016 will set another sales record.