Record-High Prices, But Unclear Yet If September Volume Up Or Down

New cars in Long Beach, Calif., May 2020. Los Angeles Times via Getty Images For the month of September, one important measure of U.S. auto sales may be on track to achieve a small increase vs. the same month a year ago. That would be the first time that’s happened […]

For the month of September, one important measure of U.S. auto sales may be on track to achieve a small increase vs. the same month a year ago.

That would be the first time that’s happened since February, before businesses were shut down to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to a forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

A different forecast, from TrueCar’s ALG Inc., predicted sales would be down in September 2020 vs. September 2019.

However, both forecasts agree that with demand high and supplies of new vehicles relatively low, dealerships are getting top dollar.

The average transaction price for new cars and trucks is headed for a record $35,655 for September, beating the latest all-time high, which was set just one month earlier, in August 2020, according to the monthly forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

The same forecast predicts retail U.S. auto sales in September 2020 — not counting sales to rent-a-car companies, corporate and government fleets — are on the rise.

Those retail sales are on a pace to hit about 1.2 million, beating September 2019 by about 3.4% based on the daily average selling rate, according to the J.D. Power and LMC forecast. The forecast is based on transaction data from a large sample of U.S. dealerships, for the first 16 out of 25 selling days in the month.

Total sales including fleets round up to about 1.3 million, down 7.5% from a year ago. The falloff in air travel has hit daily rental fleets particularly hard. September fleet sales are down 52% vs. a year ago, the forecast said.

According to the ALG forecast, total sales including fleets would be around 1.2 million, down 12% from a year ago, based on the daily selling rate. Retail sales would be about 1.1 million, down 6%, ALG said.

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