United States — For the year 2015, U.S. sales hit a record of 17.47 million vehicles, breaking the mark of 17.41 million vehicles in 2000, according to Autodata Corp.
Low gasoline prices, easy credit and moderate economic growth boosted the industry.
Automakers on Tuesday set the new U.S. sales record for 2015 despite December’s sales fell short of expectations and forecasters are optimistic for sales to rise to another record in 2016.
A Reuters report says WardsAuto, which provides data used by the U.S. government for economic analysis, said 2015 sales set a record at 17.39 million vehicles sold, breaking the 2000 mark of 17.35 million.
Autodata said December sales rose 9 percent. On an annualized rate, accounting for seasonal factors, December sales were 17.34 million vehicles, well below the 18.1 million vehicles expected by a Thomson Reuters poll of 38 economists and analysts.
“The U.S. economy continues to expand and the most important factors that drive demand for new vehicles are in place, so we expect to see a second consecutive year of record industry sales in 2016,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for General Motors Co (GM.N).
Mohatarem said the most important factors are employment and growth in personal income, which will remain strong this year.
Some forecasters, including TrueCar Inc, said U.S. sales will hit 18 million vehicles this year. The Federal Reserve’s recent interest rate increase should not deter sales.
“Interest rates would have to reach 3 percent next year before we see an inflection point that causes the year-over-year growth rate to stagnate,” said TrueCar’s chief economist, Oliver Strauss.
Mark Wakefield, leader of the auto practice at AlixPartners, predicted that sales will peak in 2016, at 17.75 million vehicles. Wakefield said sales will then decline to 17.4 million in 2017, 16.1 million in 2018 and 15.2 million in 2019. He said they would then gradually rise to 17 million in 2022.
In December, GM, the top seller in the United States, said its sales rose 5.7 percent from a year ago. Ford Motor Co (F.N), the No. 2 U.S. automaker, reported a jump of 8 percent.