General Motors claimed top spot as the biggest car seller in 2022, even as car sales overall fell 8% during the year to the lowest level in 11 years.Read More »
Sales of other American-made cars also defied the downward trend. Tesla cars grew at just under the rate of General Motors and sales of Ford grew 0.7%.
Sales of Honda and Nissan cars, by contrast, fell significantly, as did those of Toyota.
Part of the reason for the higher sales of American-made cars can be contributed to the lower availability of Asian cars as compared with their American counterparts during the year, Cox Automotive representatives explain.
Lowest sales in 11 years
Overall sales are figured to have fallen to 13.9 million units in 2022, according to Atlanta-based auto dealer Cox Automotive. This number is the lowest level since 2011 when auto sales were recovering from the Great Recession and reached only 12.7 million.
The total number of sales is even lower than the total 14.6 million sales in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down a large portion of the U.S. economy.
Most striking is that auto sales were down some 20% from the market peak in 2016.
How the year changed
The year started with the auto industry facing a supply problem. The demand for cars was there, but not enough cars were available to fill the demand.
People wanting to buy new cars were even having to go out of state in an effort to find vehicles as a shortage of computer chips combined with breakdowns in the supply chain to cut the availability of new vehicles.
The supply increases were uneven, however. Many best-selling Asian cars were almost unavailable whereas many of Detroit’s top three products were in ample supply.
The market began to change in the summer of 2022, however.
Since then the industry has been facing a demand problem, according to Cox Automotive executives. Inventory levels started to grow, making more vehicles available.
Rise in interest rates is denting the market
Availability was hit by affordability later in the year, however.
A rise in interest rates to levels not seen in 20 years put a dent in many buyers’ plans to buy that dream car.
Even as inventory was growing, some would-be buyers were therefore pushed out of the market, causing sales of vehicles to drop significantly from October to the end of 2022—by almost 2 million units.
By December fewer large red bows were to be seen than dealers would have preferred, says Charles Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive. Even as the number of new cars increased, sales were dented by rising interest rates, he explains. Those factors are now pushing down demand in the retail car market. As a result the number of buyers of new vehicles is dropping.
Lower growth likely
As for the year ahead, Cox Automotive expects the economy to grow less strongly as the Federal Reserve continues to put the brakes on the economy. At the same time sales of new vehicles are likely to grow modestly as compared with 2022.
Affordability, however, will continue to be a challenge for people wanting to buy vehicles in the year ahead, Cox Automotive forecasts.
Sales in 2022
Here is a look at some of the sales during 2022, according to figures from Cox Automotive:
• General Motors—up 1.6%
• Toyota—down 0.2%
• Ford—up 0.7%
• Honda—down 2.7%
• Nissan-Mitsubishi—down 1.3%
• Tesla—up 1.4%
• VW—down 0.2%
• BMW—up 0.1%