Auto Dealer Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Auto Dealer industry



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.

July 2022 SAAR

CHIPS-Plus Act Passes: What Does That Mean for Auto Dealers?

The July 2022 SAAR was 13.3 million units, an improvement from last month’s 13.0 million units but down 10.2% from July 2021’s rate of 14.7 million units. The SAAR continues to reflect depressed sales rates as supply chain shortages restrict volumes across the United States. This week we briefly discuss the July 2022 SAAR but focus primarily on the passing of the CHIPS-Plus bill and how it might affect auto dealers.

Special Topics Valuation Issues

2022: How Is the Auto Industry Doing and What Does the Future Hold?

Status Quo or Winds of Change?

The first half of 2022 is behind us, and with school about to start, report cards will be here before we know it. In that same light, the auto industry has published its statistics for the first six months. This post reviews predictions by industry analysts (and us) made at the beginning of the year by analyzing several key metrics. Additionally, we discuss threats that arose during the first half of 2022 and their impact on the auto industry for the remainder of the year and perhaps longer. Finally, we offer a few predictions for the second half of 2022.

June 2022 SAAR

Quantifying Pent-Up Demand

The June SAAR was 13 million units, up 2.3% from last month but down 16% compared to June 2021. This month’s release closes out the second quarter of the year, bringing the total Q2 2022 SAAR to 13.4 million units.

Public Auto Dealers

May 2022 SAAR

Can Auto Dealers Continue to Outperform OEMs?

The May 2022 SAAR was 12.7 million units, down 12.6% from last month and 24.9 % from May 2021. The SAAR for this month fell short of expectations, and the drop in May’s sales pace makes it more likely that the second quarter of 2022 will not improve on the first quarter’s average SAAR of 14.1 million units. The SAAR for May was low due to low inventory across the country.

In this week’s blog post, we compare the stock prices of Ford, Stellantis, and GM to the timing of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve in 2022 in an attempt to answer the question “have higher interest rates hurt auto manufacturer stock prices?”

April 2022 SAAR

The April 2022 SAAR was 14.3 million units, up 6.5% from 13.4 million in March but down 21.9% from the recent high April 2021 SAAR of 18.3 million units. We dig into the comparison of the last three April SAAR figures (’20, ’21, and ’22) in this post, as dynamic conditions resulted in three very different narratives surrounding the SAAR.

Supply Chain

March 2022 SAAR

The March 2022 SAAR was 13.3 million units, down 5.3% from 14.1 million in February and down 24.4% from March 2021’s SAAR of 17.6 million units. This drop in the SAAR is a product of several factors. We dig into the low magnitude of the seasonal adjustment and ongoing supply chain issues in this post.

February 2022 SAAR

The February SAAR was 14.1 million units, down 6.4% from last month and 11.7% below this time last year. The 2022 Q1 SAAR is expected to be the highest since Q2 2021 when the vehicle inventory shortage started to fully take hold. While the seasonally adjusted annual rate has certainly improved from the lows of late 2021, raw sales numbers tell a different story. Read more about it in this week’s post.

January 2022 SAAR

SAAR reached a seven month high in January, totaling 15.0 million units on an annualized basis. SAAR was up 20.0% from last month but down 10.4% from January 2021. While the SAAR certainly improved, raw sales volume in January was the lowest it has been since April 2020. Read more about it in this week’s post.

Special Topics

Auto Industry Trends to Monitor in 2022

Less Is More?

What trends can we expect to see in 2022 for the auto industry? What trends will we see “less” of? What trends will we see “more” of? In this post, we examine some of these trends and offer some predictions for industry conditions in 2022.

Electric Vehicles

December 2021 SAAR

The December SAAR totaled just 12.44 million units, down 3.5% from last month and 23.7% from December 2020. Inventory shortages, supply chain issues, and consistently high demand have been commonplace in the auto industry since the summer. That being the case, December’s low SAAR should not surprise many. In this week’s post, we discuss inventories, transaction prices, electric pickup trucks, and the outlook for January 2022.

November 2021 SAAR

This month’s SAAR came in below expectations as the industry experienced only slight inventory improvement from the historic lows of September and October. For our last SAAR blog of 2021 we provide some commentary on what seemed to work well for auto dealers in 2021 and what changes might be around for a while.

October 2021 SAAR

October 2021 SAAR was just shy of 13.0 million, as new light vehicle sales saw their first month-to-month gain since April. The October SAAR is up 6.3% from last month but remains 20.8% lower than last October. Auto dealers began the month with record low inventory levels of 972,000 units, and low inventories continue to keep car buying activity constrained.

September 2021 SAAR

September 2021 SAAR was 12.2 million, dropping for the fifth consecutive month amidst an ongoing inventory shortage. The September SAAR was the lowest since May 2020’s 12.1 million units but has not fallen near the COVID-19 pandemic low of 8.6 million units in April of 2020. Tight inventories limited both fleet and retail sales in September, which has been the same case over the last four months. Fleet sales continue to fall as a percent of total sales, making up just 12% over the last month as higher profit retail sales continue to be prioritized.

Auto Dealerships

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