April 11, 2002

World vehicle sales in March unchanged for fifth straight month

Agoura Hills, California – J.D. Power and Associates reports that the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of global light-vehicle sales during March is estimated to have been 55.8 million units – the same as in February and up only slightly from January’s selling rate of 55.7 million units.

Continued strong light-vehicle sales in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom helped keep the global sales rate in March virtually unchanged for the fifth consecutive month.

Canada’s sales, like U.S. sales, are getting a boost from a recovering economy and continued use of incentives. Canadian sales were down from unsustainable levels in January and February, but March’s sales were still relatively robust.

Light-vehicle sales in the U.S. rose from February’s 16.6 million-unit selling rate to a 16.9 million-unit rate in March.

“The U.S. auto market exceeded expectations in March as it has for each month of the first quarter,” said Dr. Robert Schnorbus, chief economist for J.D. Power-LMC in Troy, Michigan. “Automakers continue their strong use of incentives, and that, coupled with a strengthening economy, is what is keeping sales so strong. We still anticipate sales in the U.S. to drop in the second quarter before resuming an upward path during the rest of the year. In the long run, we expect annual sales to remain very strong.”

Growth in light-vehicle sales continued in the United Kingdom, accounting for nearly 19 percent of March light vehicle sales in Western Europe. The Italian and Spanish markets struggled last month.

“Western Europe has become even more reliant on the phenomenal sales boom that is in progress in the U.K.,” said Charles Young, director of research for J.D. Power-LMC in Oxford, England. “The U.K. portion of sales in Western Europe was much higher in March than we’ve seen in the past or are likely to see in the future.”

Japanese demand saw another sharp dip in March. Earlier in the year, weak Japanese demand was being offset by booming Korean sales. The strong Korean market – up 17.2 percent compared with a year ago – was no longer able to offset the increased weakness in the Japanese market. Japanese sales in March were down 7.4 percent compared with last year.

In South America, the economic crisis in Argentina continued to plague the Mercosur market. Mercosur sales in March were down 20.4 percent compared with a year ago.

J.D. Power-LMC, a global alliance between J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive Services in Oxford, England, provides comprehensive vehicle forecasts and competitive assessments on a worldwide basis.

Source: J.D. Power & Associates. Click image to enlarge

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