April Light Vehicle Sales: Flat

May 2, 2006 – Based on reports from the automakers, U.S. car and light truck sales edged up by about 0.2M units in April to about a 16.7M unit annual rate – approximately flat for the second straight month (Chart 1).

Chart 1. Light vehicle sales. Monthly and three-month moving average. January 2000 through April 2006.

These data suggest that light vehicle sales (a frequent source of volatility in the consumer spending indicators) probably won’t have a major impact on April retail sales or consumption growth.

April light vehicle sales were about 0.2M below their Q1 average of 16.9M units – marking a relatively flat start for Q2 (Chart 2).

Chart 2. Light vehicle sales. Q1 2000 through Q1 2006 and Q2 2006 to date.

Thus, as of the first month of the quarter, light vehicle sales were also heading toward an unremarkable role in Q2 consumption growth.

Despite some substantial monthly variations (Chart 3), the broader trend in light vehicle sales has been about flat at a historically strong level of about 16.8M units (within 0.1M units of April sales) since 2002.

Chart 3. Light vehicle sales. January 1968 through April 2006.

Suzanne Rizzo