New light-vehicle sales fell slightly in November. November 2020’s SAAR of 15.6 million units represents a decline of 8.4% from November 2019 and 4.5% from October 2020. Through 11 months of the year, new light-vehicle sales are down 16.7% compared with the same period last year. November 2020 had a calendar quirk that resulted in only 23 selling days and one fewer selling weekend than November 2019, which had 26 selling days. After adjusting for selling days, retail sales are expected to fall by 1% year-over-year following two months of year-over-year gains, according to Wards Intelligence. After months of year-over-year declines in fleet sales, some manufacturers experienced success with their fleet volume in November, but fleet sales were still down 25% from November 2019. In a normal year a 25% decline would be viewed negatively, but this is actually an improvement compared with the average monthly fleet sales decline of 53% seen from March through September 2020.
According to J.D. Power, average incentive spending per unit is expected to top $3,800 in November. This would mark the third straight month of incentives remaining below $4,000 per unit. Incentive spending typically increases in the last month of the year, but manufacturers may change course from recent months and boost their incentive spending in December as part of a year-end sales push.
For 2020, we expect that new light-vehicle sales will total 14.2 million units. There may be some regional ups and downs in sales as the country deals with spikes in COVID-19 cases throughout the winter months. Still, recent news suggests that widespread vaccine deployment is on the horizon in the first half of 2021. Once a majority of Americans can return to their pre-pandemic lives, we could be in for quite an economic boom, which would certainly be a positive for franchised dealers and the entire auto industry.