New car sales strong, but demand near plateau in U.S.?

new car
Nissan shows highest percentage sales gains.

The auto industry has been positively giddy lately with month-by-month results that suggest sales of more than 15 million units this year.

That would be the best year for U.S. new car and light truck sales since 2007 by a significant margin.

It’s also more than last year’s 14.5 million unit sales, which represented the highest percentage volume increase in nearly three decades, according to CNN. Last year’s increase of 1.7 million, or 13 percent, from 2011 was the biggest rise in annual auto sales since 1984.

But not all the news is quite so positive, says a report online by The Wall Street Journal, headlined “Uneven Gains Signal U.S. Car Demand Near Plateau.”

This year, “strong demand for pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles boosted U.S. sales in May for major auto makers, but the auto industry rebound that has helped buoy the U.S. economy since early last year is showing signs of leveling off,” according to Christina Rogers and Neal E. Boudette, writing this week for The Journal.

The new car surge has been fueled by easy credit; and improving housing market, which industry experts say boosts demand for pickup trucks, and higher home prices, which “tends to put consumers in a spending mood,” The Journal reporters wrote.

The market bottomed out at about 10 million in sales in 2009 but has been rising since.

“Some industry analysts say that auto makers will have to work harder, and employ greater discounts and new marketing tactics, to sustain growth,” wrote Rogers and Boudette.

The reporters quoted Jeremy Anwyl, the vice chairman of, a car-shopping website, who told them: “Car companies are having to do things to energize the market, and it is going to get harder and harder for them to hit their numbers.”

As sales closed in May, Nissan, Ford and Chrysler reported the largest percentage sales increases over 2012, at 25, 14 and 11 percent, respectively. General Motors, Ford and Toyota, two of which showed among the slowest growth, reported the largest unit sales numbers for the month at about 253,000, 246,000 and 208,000, respectively.