New vehicle sales in major auto markets, including the U.S. and China, dropped in December 2019 on a year-over-year basis, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.
Europe was the only auto market that recorded a year-over-year increase in vehicle sales during the month.
US new vehicle sales drop YOY in December
U.S. vehicle sales slid 6.3% on a nonseasonally adjusted basis to 1.52 million units from 1.62 million units a year ago, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Passenger car sales in the U.S. for the month dropped 15.3% to 378,039 units from 446,460 units in December 2018. Sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs for the period fell 2.8% to 1.14 million units from 1.17 million units in the year-ago period.
Michigan automakers General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV do not report monthly sales figures. Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. posted a 29.5% drop in U.S. sales for December at 104,781 units. Rival Honda Motor Co. Ltd. sold 136,566 units, down 12% year over year. Sales at Toyota Motor Corp. dropped 6.1% year over year to 207,373 units.
Average interest rates for new vehicles dropped to 5.4% in December, declining to their lowest level since February 2018, car shopping experts at Edmunds said in a Jan. 3 statement.
"Automakers and dealers gave new car buyers a lot of reasons to feel some holiday cheer in December," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. "Everyone knows new car deals are usually sweetest at the end of the year, but it's been a long time since financing offers were this good."
European auto sales increase in December
Passenger car sales across Europe grew year over year for the fourth consecutive month in December 2019, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA.
New passenger car registrations, or sales, reached 1.26 million vehicles in December, up 21.4% from 1.04 million in the same month in 2018, according to ACEA data for the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA, countries of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
All five major European markets posted sales growth in December. France registered a year-over-year increase of 27.7% in new car registrations during the month to 211,194 units, followed by Germany at 19.5% to 283,380 units.
Among the EFTA countries, only Norway recorded a sales decline with a 9.7% drop. Registrations in Switzerland rose 26.5% year over year, while Iceland posted a 22% increase in sales.
Most major automakers also posted sales growth for December for the European Union and the EFTA region.
Volkswagen AG's sales for the period rose 21.3% to 291,748 units, as sales of its Volkswagen brand increased by 12.7%.
France's Renault SA recorded a 22.9% increase in sales to 146,902 units. Daimler AG's sales for the month climbed 18.3% to 89,842 units.
Meanwhile, PSA Group registered a year-over-year sales drop of 2.7% to 156,204 units.
Auto sales drop in Japan, China
New vehicle sales in Japan decreased year over year in December as major domestic automakers posted a decline in sales for the period.
Japanese automakers sold 284,278 units in December, less than the 319,670 units sold in the year-ago period, according to data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Toyota sold 98,923 units during the month, compared to 100,386 units sold in December 2018. Honda sold 35,617 units, less than the 48,770 units it sold in the year-ago period.
Nissan sold 26,047 units in December, less than the 30,240 units it sold in December 2018.
Passenger car sales in China slid 0.9% in December from a year earlier to 2.21 million units, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers shows.