Automakers could post record 2016 U.S. sales on Wednesday

January 4, 2017 08:55 AM

Major automakers in the U.S. market are expected to show robust December auto sales on Wednesday, perhaps high enough for 2016 results to break the record high set the previous year, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.

December auto sales are forecast at an average 17.7 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of 35 economists. If sales reach that level in December, 2016 will set a new annual record.

Investors will watch to see if consumer discounts, which cut into company profits, are also at a record high, which analysts expect.

December sales will also give a hint of what is in store in 2017. Industry consultants LMC Automotive and J.D. Power forecast 2017 sales between 17.4 million and 17.5 million, just below what is expected for 2016.

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields said on Tuesday he expected auto sales to be helped by "pro-growth" policies expected by the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Most automakers including the top three U.S.-based companies General Motors Co., Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will report by mid-morning Wednesday.

Nissan Motor Co.'s luxury brand Infiniti said earlier Wednesday its December U.S. sales totaled 18,200 vehicles, up 20 % from a year earlier. U.S. full-year Infiniti sales rose 4 % to 153,500 vehicles. Globally, Infiniti sold 230,000 vehicles in 2016, an increase of 7 % from a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect GM's December U.S. sales to increase by about 3.5 % from a year earlier, while Ford declines about 2.5 % and Fiat Chrysler drops between 10 % and 15 %.

Japan's Toyota Motor Corp sales are expected to decline between 1 % and 4 % from December 2015, according to analysts.

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