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U.S. auto sales for 2018 exceed forecasts


Auto analysts don't usually get their U.S. new car sales forecasts wrong, but for 2018, they did.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Autotrader. She says car sales are going to end up slightly ahead of sales in 2017, at about 17.2 or 17.3 million.

"Our forecasts and everyone else's had the industry down a little bit," she says.

Krebs says the forecasts didn't take into account the Trump administration's tax cuts this year. Those tax cuts spurred businesses to add to their commercial car fleets, and, on the expectation of tax cuts, some individuals decided to purchase new cars, too.

"And we saw some buying ahead," Krebs notes, "as people were worried about rising interest rates and the threat of tariffs raising car prices."
Krebs says those worries are likely realistic.  Autotrader is forecasting a dip in U.S. auto sales next year to 16.8 million, reflecting higher prices as manufacturers pass on some of the costs of the Trump administration's steel tariffs, as well as rising interest rates making monthly car payments more expensive.

But she says 16.8 million is still a robust level of car sales for the industry.  

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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