Lang Aftermarket iReport: New vehicle sales – 2019 versus 1999


“New car and light truck sales in the U.S. totaled just over 17.0 million during 2019, marking a record fifth-consecutive year that new vehicle annual volume had topped 17 million in the U.S. Last year, two additional new vehicle records were set involving foreign nameplate volume and light truck sales share.

“Twenty years earlier, total vehicle sales were nearly identical, at 16.9 million, but the 1999 sales mix displayed great differences in the strength of foreign nameplates and light trucks compared to last year’s new vehicle market. These differences underscore changes in the types of vehicles sold over this 20-year span and the impact on the aftermarket.”

— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport


At Least 17 Million Sold in Five Straight Years

Despite many predictions that new vehicle sales would suffer a sharp 2019 decline, the year ended with over 17.0 million vehicles sold, the fifth-consecutive year (2015 through 2019) that annual new vehicle volume had surpassed 17 million.

Previous to 2015, the 17 million mark had been achieved only twice, during 2000 and 2001. It would be another 14 years before annual sales again reached 17 million vehicles.

Big Changes Over 20 Years

Total annual light vehicles 2019 sales were virtually the same as 20 years earlier, with less than a 1% difference.

However, this modest sales difference between these two years belies the dramatic changes that occurred in the mix of nameplates and types of vehicles that consumers purchased in 2019 compared to 1999.

Foreign Nameplate Surge

Domestic nameplates dominated the 1999 market, accounting for 68% of sales. Over the next 20 years, dramatic changes occurred as domestic nameplate share plunged to 45%, down one-third in strength between 1999 and 2019.

In contrast, foreign nameplates surged in new vehicle sales and expanded their vehicle share by nearly two-thirds over this 20-year span.

Foreign nameplates captured 55% of 2019 new car and light truck volume, up dramatically from 32% share 20 years earlier.

Dramatically Different Annual Sales by Nameplate

Although total annual vehicle volume was less than 1% higher during 2019 than 20 years earlier, sales of domestic and foreign nameplates recorded dramatically different performances. Annual sales of domestic nameplates plunged 3.9 million between 1999 and 2019.

In sharp contrast, foreign nameplate sales soared by 4.0 million during 2019 versus 20 years earlier. As domestic nameplates averaged a 2.0% annual decline in unit sales, foreign nameplate sales surged at nearly a 30% average annual pace.

Cars and Light Trucks

A significant shift was seen in the comparative strength of light trucks and passenger cars in the 2019 volume mix compared to 1999.

Light trucks dominated the 2019 new vehicle market, accounting for over 72% of unit sales, up approximately half in share strength from 20 years earlier, when light trucks represented 48% of the market. Passenger cars, in contrast, suffered a sharp decline in sales share, which totaled 28% in 2019, down nearly half from their share of the 1999 light vehicle market.

These differences in sales share reflected extraordinary changes in annual light truck and passenger car volume over this 20-year span.

Light truck 2019 sales were 2.8 million greater than 20 years earlier, while 2019 passenger car volume dropped by 2.9 million versus 1999.

Aftermarket Implications

This significant change in the nameplate and vehicle type mix of the new vehicle market in 2019 compared to 1999 has had significant aftermarket implications.

The growth of foreign nameplates has influenced the volume of various types of automotive products, the brands of products purchased and installed, as well as the types of repair outlets and parts locations that recorded these sales.

The surge in light truck volume has had an impact on the dollar volume of aftermarket products sold (light truck products generally have a higher selling price than comparable passenger car products) as well as the types of Replacement products and Accessories sold.

Six Major Takeaways

  • While the annual volume of new cars and light trucks during 2019 differed less than 1% from 1999, dramatic shifts took place between these two years in the nameplate mix and types of vehicles sold.
  • Annual sales of light vehicles in the U.S. hit the 17 million mark for the fifth consecutive year during 2019, an unprecedented achievement.
  • Foreign nameplates significantly increased their share of the new vehicle market during 2019 compared to 1999, soaring from 32% to 55% of annual volume. Light trucks accounted for 72% of 2019 light vehicle sales in the U.S., up dramatically from 48% 20 years earlier.
  • Foreign nameplate annual volume during 2019 was 4.0 million units greater than 20 years earlier, while domestic nameplate unit volume dropped by more than 3.9 million.
  • 2019 sales of light trucks soared 4.0 million compared to 20 years earlier, while passenger cars recorded a dramatically different record as 2019 sales plunged 3.9 million compared to 20 years earlier.
  • The surge in foreign nameplate and light truck sales in the U.S. both have had profound implications for the volume of aftermarket products, the types of products sold (Replacement parts versus Accessories), as well as where vehicles are repaired and where automotive DIYers purchase parts.

Copyright 2020 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.

NOTESpecial thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.

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