New vehicle demand saw its largest monthly decline in eight years this month, as record high prices, coupled with the growing number of gently-used off-lease vehicles returning to dealer lots, steer more consumers away from the new car market, according to TechnoMetrica’s latest Auto Demand Index survey.
After two consecutive months of double-digit gains, the Auto Demand Index plummeted by 32 points, or 26 percent, in February to a reading of 93, the lowest since May 2019. This marks the largest drop in the index since March 2012, suggesting that vehicle replacement demand may have reached its peak. Further, the index has dipped below the baseline level of 100 for the first time since November 2019, signaling low levels of vehicle purchase intent. Our indicator for momentum, the MACD, also turned negative this month, dropping from 3.1 to -0.1. Thus, as incentive spending continues to retreat from their robust levels at the end of 2019, we expect auto sales to moderate in the months ahead.
The drop in the headline index is reflected in our demographic analysis. This month, 25 of the 26 segments TechnoMetrica monitors on a monthly basis posted declines in the index.
In addition to assessing Americans’ intent to purchase new vehicles, our study also gains insight into various aspects of their vehicle preferences, including the types of cars they are likely to acquire. This month, pickups claimed the title of America’s most preferred vehicle type, garnering a 28 percent share of likely new vehicle buyers, up from 16 percent in January. Small SUVs and Large SUVs tied for second, at 16 percent. Meanwhile, just over one in ten (12 percent) likely buyers preferred a mid-size car for their next auto purchase, compared with 21 percent last month. Rounding out the top five were compact cars, the choice of 11 percent of likely buyers.
About the Index:
Each month, TechnoMetrica uses the telephone methodology to conduct live interviews with more than 900 respondents, using both landlines and cell phones (Field Period: January 23rd to 30th, 2020). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.3 percentage points. In addition, recent statistical analysis has shown a strong correlation between the Auto Demand Index and actual U.S. vehicle sales.