Auto sales data for November is expected to provide fodder for bulls and bears when released later in the week, painting the picture of an industry where growth is stalling, but sales show no sign of falling off a cliff.
Online marketplace TrueCar (TRUE - Get Report) projects total U.S. vehicle sales for the month of November, including fleet deliveries, will hit 1.367 million units, up 3.6% from the same period a year prior. But this November was aided by two additional selling days compared to November 2015.
On a daily selling rate basis, adjusted for the extra sales days, TrueCar expects transactions to decline by upward of 4.7% year over year. And excluding fleet sales, deliveries made to rental-car companies and other bulk buyers, deliveries of new cars and light trucks are expected to decline by 3.8% from November 2015, adjusted for selling days. (The company does not count Sundays and federal holidays as selling days.)
Automakers will report actual sales data for November beginning Dec. 1. Incentive spending by automakers for the month averaged an estimated $3,475 per vehicle in November, according to TrueCar, up 13% from a year ago but down 1.4% from October 2016.
The projected data would support automaker contention that while sales have sagged from multi-year highs a year ago, the industry is still strong. TrueCar expects November's seasonally adjusted annualized rate for total light vehicle sales to come in at 17.66 million units at month's end, compared to 18.25 million units a year ago.
By comparison the industry sold 13.2 million vehicles in 2008.
"With only one month of sales to go until the end of the year, it looks like we will not break the annual record for auto sales set in 2015," Eric Lyman, TrueCar's chief industry analyst, said in a statement. "But from a historical context, 2016 will go down as a blockbuster year in terms of new car sales and the overall health of the automotive industry."
Despite the growth in auto sales in recent years auto stocks have been stuck in neutral -- General Motors (GM - Get Report) , for example, trades today at approximately its November 2014 price -- as investors have taken a wait-and-see approach on whether these companies truly have restructured to a point where they can weather a downturn. The latest data would appear to show no sign that a downturn is imminent, but also present little evidence that near-term growth is on the horizon.
On an individual company basis, among the largest manufacturers, Subaru, Daimler and GM are expected to report the strongest retail sales growth, with Nissan and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU - Get Report) laggards. General Motors is expected to end November with an 18.7% total market share, up slightly from a year prior, followed by Toyota (14.4%), Ford (F - Get Report) (13.7%) and Fiat Chrysler (11.9%).
Total used auto sales, including franchise and independent dealerships and private-party transactions, are expected to be down about 6% from November 2015. November's registration mix is expected to be about 87.1% retail this year, compared to 86.3% retail and 13.7% fleet in November 2015.