Vehicle Sales as of May 2024

The latest vehicle sales report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis is now available through May. This data series stretches back to January 1976 and for heavy trucks, since 1967. Since that first data point, the civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over (i.e., driving age, not in the military, or an inmate) has risen about 61.6%. For a more accurate representation of vehicle sales, we focus on the population-adjusted data.

Here is a chart, courtesy of the FRED repository, of the raw data for the seasonally adjusted annualized number of new vehicles sold domestically in the reported month. This is a quite noisy series - the absolute average month-over-month change is 4.3%.

FRED Light Vehicle Sales

The latest data point is the May count published by the BEA in its monthly auto and truck seasonal adjustment report, which shows a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15.901 million units, which is a 0.8% increase from the previous month's figure from the BEA and the fastest rate so far this year.

The first chart shows the series since 2007, which illustrates the dramatic impact of the great recession. The purple line smooths the volatility with a nine-month exponential moving average suggested by our friend Bob Bronson of Bronson Capital Markets Research. The moving average reduces the distortion of seasonal sales events (e.g., Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend) and thus helps us visualize the trend. The latest moving average is at an annual rate of 15.599 million units, the fastest pace since July 2021.

Vehicle Sales Autos and Light Trucks