U.S. new light-vehicle sales slipped 5 percent in December and dipped 1.8 percent to 17.25 million for all of 2017—ending a string of seven annual gains that had propelled the industry to new highs following the 2008-09 market collapse.
After hitting a record 17.55 million in 2016, annual light-vehicle sales fell for the first time since 2009 while topping 17 million units for the third straight year and just the fifth time in history.
Even with the dip in December volume, the seasonally adjusted, annualized pace sales came in at 17.86 million in December, among the year's strongest months.
Car sales slipped 17 percent last month while light truck demand edged up 1.6 percent. For the year, car deliveries slid 11 percent and truck volume rose 4.4 percent.
Among leading auto makers, General Motors, Toyota, FCA, Nissan and Honda posted declines in U.S. deliveries in December while Ford advanced.
Ford's 1.3 percent increase marked its fourth straight monthly gain. GM fell 3.3 percent and FCA US was off as both companies pared back shipments to daily rental companies. Volume dipped 8.3 percent at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., 9.5 percent at Nissan North America and 7 percent at American Honda, though Nissan and Honda both set sales records for the year.
Ford Motor's 1.3 percent gain came on the strength of a 2.4 percent increase at the Ford division, which was fueled by strong light truck volume. Lincoln skidded 17 percent as car sales plunged 26 percent. In December, SUV/crossover demand rose 8 percent but car deliveries slid 5.5 percent, Ford said. For the year, Ford's U.S. deliveries dipped 0.9 percent.
General Motors' sales slipped 3.3 percent behind a decline of 2.9 percent at Chevrolet and 29 percent at Cadillac, even as the company fattened deals. Volume rose 4.7 percent at Buick and 1.2 percent at GMC. GM continues to trim daily rental shipments but said it set new annual sales records for pickup and crossover deliveries, electric vehicle sales and average transaction prices.
At Toyota, volume fell 8.3 percent to 222,985 with sales off 7.2 percent at the Toyota brand and 14 percent at Lexus. Light-truck deliveries, a bright spot for Toyota all year, dropped 5.6 percent last month.
FCA US reported a sales decline of 11 percent as the company dials back on fleet business. Led by a drop in volume of 12 percent at Jeep and 6.9 percent at Ram, every FCA brand except Chrysler and Alfa Romeo posted a decline in deliveries last month.