U.S. New Car Sales Break Record in 2015

January 6, 2016

Automotive News reports that U.S. auto sales broke a new sales record in 2015 pushing the annual tally above the 17,402,486 mark set in 2000.

Automakers sold 17,470,659 light-vehicle sales last year, an increase of 5.7 percent over 2014, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Among the largest automakers, Nissan Motor Co. was the biggest gainer, with a 19 percent jump from December 2014 levels. FCA US climbed 13 percent. Volume rose 11 percent at Toyota Motor Corp. and 10 percent at Honda Motor Co. Ford Motor Co. volume increased 8.3 percent while General Motors deliveries rose 5.7 percent.

Most analysts had forecast 17.5 million light vehicle sales.

U.S. sales continue to be driven by low gasoline prices, pent-up demand, widespread credit availability, an increase in leasing and employment gains.

Trucks, SUVs and crossovers continued to set the pace, jumping 19 percent in December and 13 percent in 2015. Car demand remains weak, falling 3.8 percent last month and 2.3 percent for the year.

Lexus passed Mercedes-Benz, but BMW held on in December to top the luxury segment in 2015 for its fourth sales crown in five years. The race was tight until the end. BMW finished 2015 with luxury sales of 346,023, followed by Lexus with 344,601 and Mercedes with 343,088, which excludes Sprinter deliveries. All three luxury brands, along with Audi and Porsche, set annual U.S. sales records last year. BMW previously won the U.S. luxury-sales crown in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Mercedes-Benz took it in 2013.

Edmunds projects that leases will account for a record 29 percent of all new U.S. retail sales in 2015. That is up 2 percentage points from 27 percent in 2014 and compares with a leasing rate of 16.6 percent just 10 years ago.

The growth in leasing is being spurred by higher vehicle and transaction prices. The average new-vehicle transaction price in 2015 was $33,188, up 2.5 percent from $32,386 in 2014, Edmunds says.

Overall, average industry incentives per vehicle rose 3.9 percent from December 2014 to $3,063 last month.