California’s AutoPacific Forecasts A Drop In U.S. Light Vehicle Sales

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California’s AutoPacific, an automotive consulting firm, forecasted 16.9 million light vehicles will be sold in the U.S. in 2018. This is down approximately 300,000 units from 2017 sales. AutoPacific officially announced its forecast today.

“As the market continues to return to normal after years of pent-up demand and economic recovery, a steady decline in auto sales is expected,” says Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis for AutoPacific.

Despite an expected decline in overall light vehicle sales in coming years, electric vehicles are expected to see growth as other world markets adopt electrification.

“The U.S. is no longer the biggest market in the world, so even though the current administration is likely to relax CAFE standards, automakers develop their business cases from a global perspective, and other markets demand electrification,” says Kim.

The growth of high-volume, low-cost 48V hybrids is expected to contribute to the growth of electrified powertrains. While consumer demand for electric vehicles is still low (3 percent in 2017, according to AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Study), OEM push, influenced by other world markets, is expected to increase consumer pull in the coming years. AutoPacific forecasts electrified powertrain share of sales to increase from 3 percent in 2017 to 12 percent in 2023.

By the end of the forecast period, AutoPacific expects growth in autonomous vehicle ride-hailing services to contribute to the decline in light vehicle sales.

“These services affect consumer need for vehicle ownership,” says Kim. “In dense urban centers, where ride-hailing services aim to be cheaper and more convenient than auto ownership, we will see reduced demand for privately owned vehicles”.

However, AutoPacific does not expect private car ownership to disappear soon.

AutoPacific’s first quarter forecast for year-end sales has proven accurate over the years, with a 10-year average forecast accuracy of 95 percent. Last year’s forecast accuracy was 99.3 percent. The study takes into account economic and industry factors as well as consumer data from the annual New Vehicle Satisfaction Study.

The company was founded in 1986 and is an automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm. Its headquarters and research facility are in Tustin, Calif., with an affiliate office in the Detroit area.

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