U.S. January auto sales seen down 3%, but industry still rolling

February 1, 2017 09:58 AM

Automakers on Wednesday are likely to report a 3% decline in U.S. auto sales for January after a surprisingly strong December stole some thunder from the start of the new year, industry analysts and economists said.

Still, with December's good showing pulling sales from January, normally the weakest month of the year in terms of sales volume, some analysts cautioned against putting too much emphasis on the month's annualized selling rate.

The 11 analysts polled by Reuters in Detroit showed expectations of an annualized selling rate of 17.4 million vehicles. A wider poll of 40 economists by Thomson Reuters showed estimates of 17.55 million vehicles on the annualized basis.

The overall U.S. auto market remained on a roll, with rising sales for the past seven years, and record highs for the past two, they said. Each month, auto sales are an early indicator of U.S. consumer spending.

Last year ended surprisingly strong. December U.S. sales were 18.43 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, far outpacing expectations of 17.7 million vehicles.

A Reuters poll of industry analysts showed expectations that General Motors Co sales fell about 2%, and guesses ranged from down 9% to up 3%.

At Ford Motor, analysts expected, on average, that January sales dropped 3%, with estimates ranging from down 7% to up 2%.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales were seen dropping 16%, and analysts forecast stretched from between 14% and 18%.

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