US auto sales down 0.5% in May

U.S. auto sales dipped for the fifth month in a row in May, with a 0.5 percent decrease and more than 1.5 million vehicles sold, The Associated Press reported.

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Toyota reported decreases in sales last month compared to May 2016. Ford, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen reported increases.

IHS Markit analyst Tom Libby told the AP that despite good economic factors, like low unemployment and gas prices, there could be a decrease in auto sales for all of 2017. That would be the first annual sales decline since 2009.

The past two years saw record sales of about 17.5 million vehicles, which analysts say could account for the lack of demand, the AP reported. In other words, most people who needed a new vehicle may have already bought one.

Plus, people are hanging onto their cars longer, slowing sales overall. The average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads has ticked up to about 11.5 years.

Libby’s firm reduced its 2017 sales forecast from 17.4 million to 17.3 million, the AP reported. LMC Automotive and J.D. Power lowered theirs more drastically — from 17.5 million to 17.2 million.

High inventory on dealer lots could bring deals for car buyers, according to Libby. But too many vehicles for sale could also lead to cuts in production and layoffs at auto assembly plants.

“We are seeing an artificially sustained market,” Mark Wakefield, of AlixPartners, told Automotive News. “It’s undeniable that retail demand is down. It’s not only down, it’s down fairly steadily in the first five months of the year.”