U.S. new-vehicle sales are expected to decline for a third consecutive month, but the industry’s selling rate could reach its highest point of the year because of the way October falls in the calendar. Forecasts show sales falling 6 to 8 percent from a year ago. That would be a better performance than it appears because October has two fewer selling days than it did in 2015. Analysts said Hurricane Matthew also slowed sales in the Southeast early in the month.
The forecasts translate to a seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate of 17.7 million to 17.9 million. That compares to 17.74 million last month and 18.15 million a year ago. Taking into account that there are no popular weekend sales events in October, automakers and dealers can feel encouraged by this month’s performance as they head into what they hope will be a busy holiday season. Automakers are scheduled to report October sales on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Total sales declined in each of the last two quarters. As a result, Ford Motor Co. and other automakers have been cutting production to keep inventories from getting too big. Incentives also are on the rise as demand flattens out. Incentive spending is down slightly from September but up at least 12 percent from a year ago.