Westlake Village, California – New vehicle retail sales in the U.S. are still in decline from 2008 but are improving, according to a new report by J.D. Power. October sales are expected to decline only six per cent, compared with October 2008, the first single-digit decline since May 2008.

This marks the most significant improvement in 17 months, excluding August 2009 when year-over-year sales were up 13 per cent due to the “Cash for Clunkers” incentive program.

October retail sales are expected to be 651,600 units, representing a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 8.3 million units. With fleet volume down only four per cent from one year ago, total sales for October are projected at 816,600 units, down six per cent from October 2008.

“While year-over-year comparisons benefit from a low selling base in October 2008, improvements in consumer confidence and credit are propelling the return to positive sales gains relative to last year,” said Gary Dilts, senior vice-president of global automotive operations. “October’s selling rate is expected to come in at 10.3 million units, nearly flat compared with 10.5 million units one year ago, which is an encouraging sign for the industry and in line with our expectations for the rest of the year.”

While most of the retail segment mix remains relatively unchanged from September 2009, the share of pickup trucks increased to nearly 14 per cent from less than 12 per cent last month, driven mainly by strong marketing programs, incentives, and stable fuel prices.

J.D. Power is maintaining a forecast of 10.3 million units of total sales for 2009, with retail sales projected at 8.6 million units. The 2010 forecast remains at 11.5 million units for total sales, and 9.5 million units for retail sales.

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