U.S. Auto Sales At Record Levels

By Nicole M., 5/18/16

An exciting turning point just happened in the U.S. auto industry.  Last year, 2015, marked the longest streak of annual auto sales gains since the 1920’s and capped a spectacular comeback from the 2008-2009 three-decade low of 10.4 million.  Light-vehicle sales in 2015 reached 17,470,659, with its strongest month being December, which saw 8.9% year-over-year increase. Overall the industry had a year-over-year growth of 5.7% from 2014.  So what happened to cause such a high-point within the industry?

There were several factors that made a much-needed positive impact on the U.S. auto industry, including: low gasoline prices, pent-up demand, widespread credit availability, increased leasing options and employment gains.  Among the top categories were trucks, SUVs and crossovers – up 13% in 2015. “It’s truly remarkable that the auto industry is finishing off its best year ever just six years after the depths of the Great Recession, “ analyst Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com said in a January 2015 article by Automotive News. “Low-APR offers and tumbling gas prices are making it easy for shoppers to buy or lease a new car, but don’t overlook the products themselves. If you’re buying a new car today, you’re getting a safer, more fuel-efficient and more technologically packed vehicle than ever before.”

To keep the momentum going in 2016, U.S. automakers are focusing on three key areas.  The first area is safety.  In 2014, over 65 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S. alone, costing billions of dollars and putting the pressure on automakers to adopt new technology and hire new quality assurance specialists to ensure flaws are caught early and corrected before the vehicles ever make it off the assembly line.

The second area of focus is in regards to fuel-efficiency.  New laws are requiring an increase of electric car charging equipment in parking lots, which will increase the demand for electric vehicles. It will also allow those driving hybrids to switch over to all-electric vehicles.  As a result, “Automakers and original equipment manufacturers will invest in larger and more efficient car batteries, better electric heating systems and other technologies to give electric cars the same capabilities as traditional ones,” according to an article written by Nestor Fernandez, Jr. on Akkofastener.com.  In addition, the overall weight of U.S. vehicles will need to be reduced in order to meet the 2016 Consumer Average Fuel Economy standards which require U.S. automakers to have an average fuel efficiency of 34 miles per gallon on their vehicles.

The third are of focus has been on advanced technologies for automobiles.  According to an article by Strategyand.pwc.com, a decade ago the cost of electronics and software content in autos was less than 20% of the total cost of the vehicle.  Today it accounts for 35% or more, based on studies by Manfred Broy, a professor of informatics at Technical University, Munich.  This data supports what many attendees of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas in January were saying, that car technology once again stole the show this year.  Among the top technologies getting buzz are driverless and autonomous cars, driver override systems, biometric vehicle access, personalization of the driver experience via cloud connectivity and a further expansion into smart mobility.

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