SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts

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.

Confirmed Cases: 48626

Reported Deaths: 2717
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11723689
Lake5212244
Elkhart332051
Allen2815132
St. Joseph198168
Cass16399
Hamilton1596101
Hendricks1414100
Johnson1288117
Porter73637
Tippecanoe7279
Madison66364
Clark66044
Bartholomew58944
Howard58057
LaPorte57926
Vanderburgh5706
Kosciusko5564
Marshall4926
Noble48428
Jackson4723
LaGrange4719
Delaware45050
Boone44943
Hancock44935
Shelby43025
Floyd38244
Morgan32931
Monroe30128
Montgomery29720
Grant29526
Clinton2892
Dubois2836
Henry28016
White26510
Decatur25532
Lawrence24625
Vigo2368
Dearborn23323
Warrick22129
Harrison21622
Greene19032
Miami1842
Jennings17612
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess14717
Wayne1426
Orange13523
Perry1359
Steuben1302
Franklin1268
Ripley1227
Jasper1212
Wabash1132
Carroll1102
Fayette1017
Newton9910
Whitley965
Starke933
Gibson872
Randolph804
Huntington782
Wells751
Jefferson722
Fulton711
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey440
Spencer411
Blackford392
Brown391
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton311
Switzerland270
Martin230
Parke230
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 58904

Reported Deaths: 2970
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10587431
Cuyahoga8048379
Hamilton6158204
Lucas2788303
Marion273439
Pickaway220141
Summit2175207
Montgomery213431
Mahoning1849238
Butler163747
Columbiana130660
Stark1133113
Lorain105167
Trumbull97473
Warren88124
Clark7729
Delaware58815
Fairfield58516
Tuscarawas56810
Belmont55422
Medina53632
Lake50819
Licking49612
Miami47231
Portage44959
Ashtabula43644
Wood43651
Clermont4226
Geauga40843
Wayne36352
Richland3475
Allen32341
Mercer2879
Greene2769
Darke25326
Erie24622
Holmes2393
Huron2232
Madison1999
Ottawa15024
Sandusky13714
Crawford1365
Washington13520
Ross1303
Putnam12915
Coshocton1272
Hardin12312
Morrow1171
Auglaize1074
Jefferson912
Monroe8917
Union891
Muskingum861
Hancock791
Hocking788
Preble781
Guernsey743
Lawrence720
Williams722
Shelby694
Clinton680
Logan641
Athens631
Fulton620
Ashland601
Carroll593
Wyandot595
Brown581
Knox521
Defiance513
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto450
Champaign411
Van Wert380
Perry351
Seneca342
Henry300
Paulding260
Adams241
Jackson240
Pike240
Vinton222
Gallia181
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 79°
Angola
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 79°
Huntington
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Hot with storms Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events