Westlake Village, California – Retail new-vehicle sales in the U.S. were down by 40 per cent during the first 17 selling days in March, compared with the same period in 2008, according to J.D. Power and Associates. The firm gathers real-time transaction data from more than 10,000 dealerships across the U.S.

New-vehicle retail sales for the entire month of March are projected to come in at 633,000 units, compared with 1.07 million units a year ago. In February, retail sales totalled 557,000 units. The numbers represent retail sales only, including dealership sales and leases to private parties, and do not include fleet sales. With fleet sales, March is expected to show 798,000 units.

“While the automotive market is down 40 per cent year over year through the first quarter of 2009, the remainder of the year continues to be an open question,” said Gary Dilts, senior vice president of global automotive operations. “We’re still seeing economic headwinds and reduced consumer demand for new vehicles, making it a tough marketplace. However, we anticipate that improvements on Wall Street and a boost in consumer confidence will help to bring the market back.”

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