TrueCar forecasts total US light vehicle sales will reach 1,460,820 units in March 2021, up 42% from a year ago and up 13% from February 2021, when adjusted for the same number of selling days. The large year-on-year gain forecast for March reflects the low base for comparison last year when the Covid-19 public health crisis started to be felt.

This month’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for total light vehicle sales is an estimated by TrueCar at 16.4 million units. Excluding fleet sales, TrueCar expects U.S. retail deliveries of new cars and light trucks to be 1,260,416 units, an increase of 53% from a year ago and an increase of 10% from February 2021, when adjusted for the same number of selling days.

“The pandemic’s dramatic impact on the automotive industry and U.S. economy at large began in the last two weeks of March 2020 when dealerships and OEM plants shut down and stay at home mandates rolled out, which gives us our first year-over-year sales compare,” said Nick Woolard, Lead Industry Analyst at TrueCar.  “Automotive sales dropped 38% from 2019, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing total sales up 42% and retail sales up 53% when compared to the March 2020. Looking at the year-over-year sales forecast, domestic brands such as GM and Ford, fared much better because parts of the country that hold a majority of trucks sales from these brands had not yet rolled out their state stay at home orders at this point last year.”  

“In order to get back to a full recovery we need to see improvement in fleet sales.  This month we expect to see further encouraging trends in fleet as commercial activity picks up as well as some rental fleet as travel slowly resumes,” added Woolard.

Average transaction prices (ATP) are projected to be up 3.3% or $1,185 from a year ago and down 0.6% or $231 from February 2021. TrueCar projects that U.S. revenue from new vehicle sales will reach approximately $54.8 billion for March 2021, up 52% (based on a non-adjusted daily selling rate) from a year ago and up 21% from last month.

"As consumers receive their stimulus checks and tax refunds, we expect demand for vehicles to increase. At the same time, production complications such as with microchips and shortages of other core materials are affecting a number of automakers, and retailers are struggling to have enough supply to meet the strong demand," said Valeri Tompkins, Senior Vice President, OEM Solutions at TrueCar.  "Consumers who are very specific about the vehicle they want to purchase may need to be extra patient, as they will likely have a harder time finding their first choice of color or trim when shopping."

"Vehicles are turning on dealer lots very quickly because of the supply and demand imbalance. In fact, according to TrueCar's new car inventory data, the average vehicle is in inventory for only 56 days, which is two weeks less on the dealer lot than during this exact time last year," added Tompkins.  "This is also causing the price of used vehicles to increase significantly year-over-year. The average listing of the used vehicle on TrueCar is up $2,300 year-over-year, so if consumers are looking to sell their used vehicles, now is a great time."

Additional Insights (forecast by TrueCar):

  • Total retail sales for March 2021 are expected to be up 42% from a year ago and up 13% from February 2021 when adjusted for the same number of selling days.
  • Fleet sales for March 2021 are expected to be down 2.5% from a year ago and up 35% from February 2021 when adjusted for the same number of selling days.
  • Average transaction price is projected to be up 3.3% or $1,185 from a year ago and down 0.6% or $231 from February 2021.
  • Total SAAR is expected to increase 44% from a year ago from 11.4 million units to 16.4 million units.
  • Used vehicle sales for March 2021 are expected to reach 3.6 million, up 104% from a year ago and up 1% from February 2021.  
  • The average interest rate on new vehicles is 4.7% and the average interest rate on used vehicles is 8.3%.
  • The average loan term on a new vehicle for March 2021 is 70 months, a two-month decrease, when compared to the average loan term of 72 months from this time last year.

Quarterly Insights: (forecast by TrueCar)

  • Total unit sales for Q1 are expected to be up 10% from last year when adjusted for the same number of selling days and down 4% from Q1 when adjusted for the same number of selling days.
  • Total retail sales for Q1 are expected to be up 21% from last year when adjusted for the same number of selling days and down 7% from Q1 when adjusted for the same number of selling days.