Sales of motor vehicles rose to 17.2 million units (SAAR) in August, up from 17.0 million units in September. Total sales of passenger cars was unchanged at 4.65 million units and light trucks — which includes minivans, SUVs, and crossovers — was up to 12.54 million units from 12.42 million.
September sales of domestic passenger cars were up to 3.55 million units after 3.39 million in August, and light trucks were up to 9.89 million after 9.77 million. Sales of foreign build passenger cars slipped to 1.09 million units after 1.19 million in the prior month, while light trucks were only slightly lower at 2.65 million in September after 2.64 million in August.
Consumers continued to show a preference for light trucks over passenger cars with 73% of sales in that segment. In fact, this is the largest share of sales per month for a second month in a row. Some of it is due to sustained moderate prices for gasoline, but also that over time the light truck category with its versatile offerings has seen improvements in cost of ownership that make it more popular.
The September data on retail and food sales report on October 16 at 8:30 ET should get a boost from the solid pace of motor vehicle sales along with a little upward push from higher gasoline prices.
Strong sales of motor vehicles overall will contribute to GDP via support of consumer spending. However, sales of heavy trucks fell to 501,000 in September from 538,000 in August, and was at its slowest pace since 501,000 in November 2018. The pullback in purchases of capital equipment will be a negative for GDP in the third quarter.
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