New vehicle sales in most major auto markets, including the U.S. and China, fell in April on a year-over-year basis, while sales in Japan rose.
Auto sales in US suffer as consumers feel financial pinch
The overall non-seasonally adjusted U.S. vehicle sales for April fell 1.7% to 1.33 million units, versus 1.35 million units a year ago, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.
Passenger car sales in the U.S. for the period dropped 7.5% to 396,205 units from 428,500 units in April 2018. Sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs for the period totaled 934,379 units, up 1% from the 2018 figure of 925,046 units.
Research firm Edmunds said the sales drop "comes partly from saturated demand from years of elevated sales but also reflects the increased cost of purchasing a vehicle in today's market."
"April sales were a bit dampened by the harsh financing conditions we've been seeing in the new car market," Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis said in a statement. "Shoppers are really starting to feel the pinch as prices continue to creep up and interest rates loom at post-recession highs."
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported a 6% year-over-year decline in the U.S. sales for April at 172,900 vehicles. While the company's Ram brand recorded a 25% year-over-year jump in April sales to 53,811 vehicles, sales of the company's Jeep brand dropped 8% to 76,325 vehicles.
Sales of the company's Chrysler brand were down 37% year over year to 8,987 units.
"April marks the start of the spring selling season and we anticipate strong consumer spending as we move through May," Reid Bigland, U.S. head of sales at Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. "The industry may be shaking off the first-quarter sluggishness, but shoppers are coming into showrooms and buying."
Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. reported a 4.4% drop in U.S. sales for April on a volume basis. The automaker sold 183,866 units during the month.
Meanwhile, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. bucked the trend as its sales rose 9% year over year to 95,698 vehicles.
Nissan group total car sales grew 6.4% year-over-year to 42,407 units. The company's total truck sales in the U.S. rose 11.2% to 53,291 vehicles.
The company's sales of its Leaf all-electric vehicles fell 18.8% in April to 951.
Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. no longer report monthly sales figures.
European car sales continue to drop
Car sales across Europe dropped in April for the eighth month in a row.
New car registrations, or sales, slipped 0.5% in April to 1.34 million units, down from 1.35 million units in April 2018, according to ACEA data for the European Union and the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
The European car sales slump began with the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, or WLTP. The new methodology for measuring exhaust pipe emissions tests was developed by experts from the European Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
April sales results were mixed among the major EU markets.
Spain registered a 2.6% increase in registrations in April on a year-over-year basis, while Italy saw registrations surge 1.5%.
By contrast, Germany registered a decline of 1.1% in registrations, while the U.K. posted a 4.1% decline in sales.
Among the European Free Trade Association countries, Switzerland reported a 7.9% rise in car sales.
Major auto manufacturers also reported mixed results for the month for the European Union and the European Free Trade Association region.
French carmaker PSA Group registered a 1.3% increase in its sales to 218,645 units, as sales of its Citroën brand jumped 14.2%. Sales of its Peugeot SA brand declined 1% year over year.
Renault SA registered a 1.4% increase in car sales across the EU and European Free Trade Association region. The company sold 145,240 units during the month.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen AG registered a year-over-year sales drop of 3.4% to 335,745 units, as sales of its Volkswagen brand slid 6.8%. Sales of the company's Audi brand also decreased by 5.8%.
European sales at Fiat Chrysler fell 3% to 88,755 units. Sales of its Jeep brand decreased 5.3% year over year, while sales of its Fiat brand increased by 0.1%.
Sales declined by 17.1% at Nissan to 31,727 units.
Japan auto sales rise; China reports a drop
Japan auto sales increased in April from a year earlier, with Toyota selling the most vehicles during the month.
Sales rose 3.3% to 314,950 units from 305,027 vehicles in the year-ago period, according to data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Toyota sold 107,394 units in Japan, up from 100,529 vehicles in April 2018. Honda Motor Co. Ltd. sold 51,187 units in April, more than the 51,036 units it sold in the year-ago period.
China's passenger car sales dropped 17.7% year over year to 1.57 million units in April amid an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China, data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers shows.
Sales of sedans reached 791,200 units, down 14.8% year over year, while sales of SUVs registered a decline of 20% to 647,800 units.