Auto sales fall for the first time in 8 years

U.S. car sales fell 2017 for the first time since 2009.But don't panic -- the dip was fairly modest and the in...

Posted: Jan 4, 2018 11:40 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2018 11:40 AM

U.S. car sales fell 2017 for the first time since 2009.

But don't panic -- the dip was fairly modest and the industry is still in pretty good shape.

Annual sales fell 1.8% to 17.2 million vehicles according to final figures from Autodata, which tracks sales.

But the average car price is actually climbing, so total revenue collected for U.S. car sales may actually have edge slightly higher. Consumers are buying more expensive models, such as crossovers instead of traditional sedans, and are also upgrading with more expensive features, such as automatic braking and lane detection warnings.

Buyers paid an average of $35,082 per car in 2017, a record that is up 2.3% from a year earlier. Relatively easy access to credit and more leasing options are helping to boost both sales and prices.

Related: 2018 will be the year of the electric car

Even if U.S car sales are slipping, global auto sales in 2017 are expected to hit a record 94.5 million vehicles, up 2.5% when those final numbers are in next month, fueled by continued strong demand in China, which is the largest market for auto sales.

"It's been an unprecedented run," said Michelle Krebs, senior industry analyst with AutoTrader, of the seven straight years of rising auto sales. "The industry is still in very good shape. A lot of the decline is due to a drop in purchases by rental car companies. The retail side (of sales to consumers) is still pretty strong."

Overall sales are at a historically high level. Despite the modest decline in 2017, "this will be the third consecutive year of 17-plus million sales," said Tom Libby, manager of industry analysis for IHS Markit. "This is the first time this has happened since the inception of the industry more than 100 years ago."

And low unemployment, strong job growth and the benefits of the recently passed tax cut should help support sales going forward, even if there is another modest decline in 2018 as most forecasts predict.

Related: Sure the auto industry is transforming. But GM says 'We've got this'

The situation was much more dire in 2009, the last time the industry posted a year-over-year sales decline. Amid the Great Recession, annual auto sales plunged 21% to just 10.3 million cars sold, a 27-year low. General Motors and Chrysler tumbled into bankruptcy, requiring a federal bailout to remain in business. Later that year the federal government pumped additional cash into the industry through a cash-for-clunkers program that paid consumers to scrap their older cars and buy new ones.

Now GM, Fiat Chrysler and Ford are all solidly profitable with enough cash on hand to fund ambitious research and development programs aimed at producing the next generation of self-driving and electric cars. Employment at U.S. auto plants is up about 50% from the low hit in the summer of 2009.

There are still plenty of challenges ahead for automakers, including the growth of ride sharing services such as Uber and the arrival of self-driving cars. All of that could impact demand for new cars going forward, but Krebs said it will be decades before those factors hurt auto sales.

Correction: The headline on an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of years since U.S. auto sales last fell.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
LaPorte9065163
Howard8236144
Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
Shelby417581
Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
DeKalb347164
Montgomery345754
Knox335639
Miami321444
Steuben313745
Whitley307326
Wabash303251
Adams300936
Ripley298445
Putnam296850
Huntington291659
Jasper289034
White273243
Daviess270474
Jefferson263338
Decatur247683
Fayette247148
Greene239862
Posey239328
Wells236051
LaGrange228862
Scott225339
Clay222532
Randolph213548
Jennings198936
Sullivan192333
Spencer191321
Washington186423
Fountain184027
Starke175443
Jay167623
Owen165737
Fulton164030
Orange159534
Carroll158015
Rush155118
Perry154229
Vermillion149134
Franklin148333
Tipton132332
Parke13078
Pike116926
Blackford111022
Pulaski97037
Newton90921
Brown88035
Benton86610
Crawford7999
Martin73713
Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 18°
Angola
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 17°
Huntington
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 10°
Feels Like: 19°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 18°
Lima
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 15°
Light Snow Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events