(Recasts to highlight production cuts)
DETROIT Dec 22 U.S. auto sales will probably
decline slightly for December as consumers keep snubbing sedans
despite record consumer discounts, industry consultancies J.D.
Power and LMC Automotive said on Thursday in a forecast that
highlights the pressure on Detroit automakers.
While U.S. auto sales for all of 2016 could eke out a
record, Power and LMC forecast manufacturers' discounts offered
to close sales would hit a record high of more than $4,000 per
vehicle in December. The consultancies estimated sales at 17.5
million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis this
month, flat with a year ago.
Detroit automakers are moving to cut production of certain
vehicles, particularly small and mid-sized sedans, as they
concede that the market is hitting a plateau where the cost of
pushing additional sales in of certain cars outweighs the
General Motors Co plans to lay off 3,300 workers
indefinitely at three U.S. car factories.
Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV
have ordered temporary cutbacks at several
factories. Fiat will extend a Christmas shutdown by one week at
the Windsor, Ontario, plant that builds its new Pacifica minivan
and at a Brampton, Ontario, factory that assembles Chrysler 300
and Dodge Challenger sedans.
The speed that U.S. consumers, emboldened by cheap gasoline,
have turned their backs on small cars to embrace larger sport
utility vehicles and pickups has caught Detroit automakers
Light trucks, including SUVs, have surged to 59 percent of
the total U.S. light vehicle market for the first 11 months of
2016, compared with 52 percent in the comparable 2014 period.
That tilt has forced cutbacks at factories dedicated solely to
car production when oil prices were high, such as GM's
Lordstown, Ohio, plant, which will lay off workers on its third
production shift next month.
How close automakers come to beating a full-year sales
record will depend on both consumer demand and the companies'
decisions on how many vehicles they sell to rental car fleets.
In 2015, U.S. sales totaled 17.39 million vehicles,
according to WardsAuto, and 17.47 million, according to
Autodata. The two consultancies differ on the number of large
trucks they include in the "light vehicle" sales figures they
In a separate forecast, TrueCar Inc's ALG
automotive consultancy said December sales would fall 2.6
percent to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 17.41
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Joseph White; Editing by
Frances Kerry and Lisa Von Ahn)