Westlake Village, California – Consumer uncertainty is keeping auto sales flat in the U.S., while aggressive programs are resulting in improved sales in some European and Asian markets, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

The rate of decline in new-vehicle retail sales in the U.S. has slowed in May, compared with the previous 12 months, but flat sales have resulted in a projected delay in market recovery of two to three months beyond the spring selling season. Based on the first 14 selling days of the month, new-vehicle retail sales for May are expected to be 716,000 units, representing a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 7.6 million units. This is down by 36 per cent from one year ago, but up by 9 per cent when compared with April 2009.

Due to the delay of a pronounced recovery, the company has revised its total new light-vehicle sales forecast for 2009 to 10.0 million units, or 400,000 fewer units than the previous forecast. The revision is driven primarily by a projected reduction in retail sales of 230,000 units, to total 2009 sales of 8.3 million units in 2009, as well as by expected reductions in fleet sales.

“While there are some signs of stability in the automotive market, current sales rates indicate that achieving recovery will not be a quick proposition,” said Gary Dilts, senior vice-president of global automotive operations. “We remain optimistic that the fundamentals will continue to improve and that we will see an uptick during the summer sales season, which will help the industry stabilize further and help build consumer confidence.”

Some markets are demonstrating improvement in monthly sales rates,including Germany and China, which are experiencing increases in sales following a period of year-over-year declines. The increases can be attributed in large part to aggressive stimulus programs, such as scrappage incentives. Although sales for India and Brazil are still expected to decline from 2008, volume forecasts for both regions have been revised upward for 2009.

J.D. Power has increased its outlook for 2009 global light-vehicle sales to 58.6 million units, up from 57.5 million units forecast in March.

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