Auto Dealer Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Auto Dealer industry



April 2024 SAAR

The April 2024 SAAR was 15.7 million units, reflecting generally flat month-over-month (+1.1%) and year-over-year (+0.4%) growth. Over the last several months, we have seen more stability in the SAAR than we have seen since the pandemic. This stability will likely give confidence to dealers and consumers alike after years of volatility and uncertainty in transaction prices and vehicle availability. In this week’s post, we discuss inventory levels, increased incentive spending, average transaction prices, and per-unit dealer profits.

March 2024 SAAR

The March 2024 SAAR was 15.5 million units, a 1.3% decrease from last month and a 3.7% increase compared to this time last year. The year-over-year sales improvement, declining transaction prices, and generally flat inventory levels may indicate that the industry is reverting to pre-pandemic normals. Check out this week’s post for more detail and for the outlook for April.

February 2024 SAAR

The automotive industry is showing signs of recovery with a 6.0% increase in SAAR and the highest February sales since 2020, indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels. Inventory levels are rising, leading to increased incentive spending by manufacturers as they compete for buyers, while average transaction prices are declining due to these incentives and increased availability of lower-priced vehicles. Despite these trends, consumers are on track to continue spending on new vehicles over the next several months, highlighting the balance between affordability and preference in the market.

January 2024 SAAR

In January 2024, the automotive industry witnessed a slight decline in the SAAR of vehicle sales, falling 6.9% from the previous month and remaining nearly stable year-over-year, marking the end of a 17-month streak of improvements. The report also highlights an increase in inventory levels and a decrease in transaction prices, suggesting the potential for a more balanced market that could offer opportunities for consumers and dealers alike in the coming months.

Special Topics

2024 Automotive Trends

A Look Back to Look Forward

In 2024, the automotive industry is expected to experience changes in vehicle supply, incentives, transaction prices, and overall profits. The new vehicle market is adjusting to higher inventory levels and manufacturer incentives, but this increase in supply is not predicted to result in higher profit margins for dealers, mainly due to factors like increased interest rates, investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, and wage increases following the UAW strike. Additionally, trends in the car-buying process indicate a shift towards online and omnichannel purchasing methods, with a significant generational difference in vehicle ownership preferences between Millennials and Gen Z.

December 2023 SAAR

In December 2023, the SAAR for vehicle sales reached 15.8 million units, a notable increase of 3.2% from the previous month and 16.8% from the same period last year, marking a return to double-digit year-over-year growth. Unadjusted total vehicle sales for December were the highest since 2020, with 1.43 million units sold, contributing to a total of 15.5 million units for the year, exceeding sales from the previous two years. Looking ahead, 2024 is expected to see continued growth in vehicle sales due to improved inventory, potential interest rate cuts, and increased affordability.

November 2023 SAAR

In November 2023, the SAAR for the auto industry showed year-over-year growth, maintaining a 16-month trend of improvements. Despite a general slowdown in growth, the industry’s unadjusted sales reached their highest level for November since 2019, with expectations of a further increase in December. A rise in vehicle inventory and Days’ Supply suggests a recovering market with potential challenges and opportunities ahead.

October 2023 SAAR

The October 2023 SAAR data indicates a nuanced picture of the auto industry, showing a slight decline from the previous month but a notable increase compared to last year, with sales reaching the highest October level since 2020. While the seven-month streak of double-digit year-over-year SAAR improvements has ended, the overall trend remains positive with a steady recovery in the industry inventory-to-sales ratio and an increasing Days’ Supply. This detailed analysis, including insights on inventory levels, transaction prices, and future outlooks, provides a comprehensive understanding of the current state and projections for the auto industry.

September 2023 SAAR

The automotive industry has witnessed its fourteenth consecutive month of annual improvements in the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR), with September 2023 recording a SAAR of 15.7 million units—a 14.9% increase compared to the previous year. However, we anticipate a potential end to the double-digit year-over-year improvements streak in the coming month. With challenges like the United Auto Workers strike and changing supply chain conditions, it remains critical to monitor consumer activity and sales trends, especially given the decline in transaction prices and surge in incentives.

August 2023 SAAR

The automotive industry in August 2023 saw a 13.6% year-over-year growth in SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), marking the thirteenth consecutive month of such improvements. However, this growth is gradually tapering off, suggesting that the industry’s recovery is becoming more nuanced.

July 2023 SAAR

The July 2023 SAAR shows a consistent year-over-year growth in auto sales volumes for the twelfth consecutive month, reflecting the industry’s journey of recovery since mid-2022. While sales projections remain positive through 2023, the volatility of the auto industry over the last three years and potential economic factors warrant vigilance for the future.

June 2023 SAAR

Direct-to-Consumer Sales—Gaining Traction or Losing Their Footing?

A fundamental shift is underway in the industry, with manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen moving towards a direct-to-consumer sales model, inciting mixed reactions from auto dealers and legal scrutiny in various states. Meanwhile, July 2023’s SAAR outlook remains positive despite looming recession concerns and the potential impact on consumer behavior.

May 2023 SAAR

The Road Ahead: SAAR Predictions for the Rest of 2023

The May SAAR saw a steady rise in national auto sales as the industry heads towards pre-pandemic levels and assesses key considerations for the second half of 2023. In this week’s post, we explore the balance of supply and demand, how inventory shortages and pent-up demand influence the market, and what may lie ahead in light of potential economic changes.

April 2023 SAAR

The April 2023 SAAR reveals a significant upswing in vehicle sales, with an 11.4% increase from April 2022. This marks the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year growth, emphasizing the improvement in vehicle availability. As we compare the inventory to sales ratio over the past three years, it’s clear that the industry has recovered from the pandemic’s impact on demand and supply chain shortages. Transaction prices are currently experiencing a slight normalization, while incentive spending is on the rise. With supply chain conditions gradually improving, the outlook for May 2023 remains optimistic. Read the full analysis to discover what this might mean for the automotive industry and potential buyers.

March 2023 SAAR

Is North American Auto Production Lagging Behind?

The March SAAR was 14.8 million units, down 1.2% from last month but up 9.3% compared to March 2022. Year-over-year improvements in the SAAR continue to persist as inventory is more available compared to this time last year. In fact, this month marks the eighth month in a row of year-over-year improvements in the SAAR and signals consistency in auto production and auto demand trends.

Public Auto Dealers Supply Chain Used Vehicles

Q4 2022 Earnings Calls

Executives Anticipate a Return to Normal

In 2022, fewer than 14 million light vehicles were sold, which was the lowest level since 2011. Supply constraints hampered productions from automakers, which led to higher profits for auto dealers on each vehicle they were able to acquire and sell, both new and used. Vehicle production improved gradually throughout the year, which is anticipated to continue through 2023.

This week we review the Q4 2022 earnings calls from the executives of six publicly traded auto dealers and discuss some of the major themes.

February 2023 SAAR

The February SAAR was 14.9 million units, down 6.3% from last month but up 8.6% from February 2022. Year-over-year increases in the SAAR have been a theme throughout the last several months. In fact, February 2023 marks the seventh month in a row that the SAAR improved from the year prior. Looking ahead, we believe that it is likely that year-over-year improvements will continue for several more months as nationwide inventory balances continue to recover.

January 2023 SAAR

The January 2022 SAAR was 15.7 million units, which is 18% higher than December 2022 and 4% higher than this time last year. This month’s data release revealed the fifth straight month of year-over-year improvements in the SAAR, supporting that inventory levels are actually recovering from the throws of persistent supply chain disruptions.

December 2022 SAAR

The December SAAR was 13.3 million units, down 5.3% from last month but up 4.7% from this time last year. This month’s SAAR data is a bit concerning for the auto industry, as supply chain improvements do not seem to be translating to improvements in the sales pace of vehicles as quickly as the last couple months have indicated. Over the past month, it has seemed more and more likely that plummeting trade-in equity, persistently high interest rates and growing fears of an economic recession are keeping the sale of automobiles low, which could spell trouble for auto dealers that have thrived in a high price environment over the past eighteen months.

November 2022 SAAR

The November 2022 SAAR was 14.1 million units, down 6.5% from last month but up 7.9% from November 2021. Compared to this time last year, vehicle availability has significantly improved, and there seems to be hope around the industry that the auto inventory crunch is in its final act. If true, this would be good news for auto dealers and consumers alike, as more units on dealer lots seem to be the first step in a “return to normal” for the industry. While it’s clear that a year-over-year improvement is present, a dip from last month’s SAAR figure may raise red flags for some of our readers. However, an additional selling weekend in October and a marginal uptick in sales due to natural disasters in the Gulf of Mexico were both tailwinds that supported a surprising improvement in the SAAR last month. Given this perspective, November 2022’s SAAR seems to return to the larger trend of improving conditions.

October 2022 SAAR

The October 2022 SAAR was 14.9 million units, up 12.7% from October 2021 and up 9.8% from last month. This month’s SAAR comes as a bit of a surprise, as the last three months’ sales pace settled at around 13.4 million units and seemed to have stabilized at a short-term equilibrium. However, meaningful improvements in inventory balances and other tailwinds like natural disaster-related demand contributed to the second-highest monthly SAAR total this year. For perspective, from 2014-2019, there were zero months where SAAR was below this recent high in the inventory-constrained 2022.

September 2022 SAAR

The September SAAR was 13.5 million units, up 2.3% from last month and up 9.6% from September 2021 when the industry had less than one million vehicles available for sale. While this month’s SAAR highlights a year-over-year improvement and gives us context around how low inventory managed to fall in 2021, this month’s data release does not indicate a “return to normal” by any means.

August 2022 SAAR

The August SAAR was 13.2 million units, down 1.1% from last month but up 0.7% from August 2021. This month’s data release, marks the third month in a row that the SAAR has been in the low 13 million-unit range, with the metric seemingly having stabilized in the short term. To illustrate this trend, over the last four months the average SAAR has been 13.1 million units.

Now that the August data has been released, we have much more visibility to what the full year SAAR might look like.

Auto Dealerships

Mercer Capital provides business valuation and financial advisory services to companies throughout the nation in the auto dealer industry.