Retail specialist TrueCar projects total new vehicle sales in the US will reach 1,048,975 units in January 2021, down 4.4% from a year ago when adjusted for the same number of selling days. It also said this month's seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for total light vehicle sales is an estimated 15.9 million units.

Excluding fleet sales, TrueCar expects US retail deliveries of new cars and light trucks to be 880,552 units, an increase of 0.4% from a year ago when adjusted for the same number of selling days. Used vehicle sales for January 2021 are expected to reach 3.2 million, up 1% from a year ago and up 10% from December 2020.

"Entering 2021 with retail sales in line with last year is a big win for the automotive industry," said Nick Woolard, Lead Industry Analyst at TrueCar. "However, while retail sales have rebounded, rental fleets remained depressed and continue to interrupt fleet sales. . As a result, fleet sales are struggling to come back to pre-pandemic levels and are driving total unit sales down."

Woolard also said the automotive industry continues to reap the benefits of continued strength in retail demand with lower incentive spend. "A handful of brands such as Ford, Genesis, GMC, Ram and Toyota, appear to be in the coveted quadrant of both retail growth as well as incentive decline. This is mostly driven by new product and being in the right segments or a combination of the two," added Woolard.

Average transaction prices (ATP) are projected to be up 4.2% or $1,509 from a year ago and down 4.5% or $1,759 from December 2020. TrueCar projects that US revenue from new vehicle sales will reach approximately $39 billion for January 2021, down 4.4% (based on a non-adjusted daily selling rate) from a year ago and down 38.2% from last month.

"Average transaction prices have finally come down from the record-setting highs we saw last month, but are still higher than this time last year.  Of the bigger manufacturers, only Kia has an average transaction price below $30,000. We expect this trend to continue as consumers desire pricier trucks and SUVs," said Alain Nana-Sinkam, Vice President of Industry Insights at TrueCar. "As new vehicle prices rise, we may see more price-conscious shoppers gravitate back towards smaller segments or the used car market due to growing concerns around affordability."