New car sales in the U.S. declined 1.3% in 2019, but remained healthy

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DETROIT (AP) – New car sales in the US declined 1.3% last year, but the numbers still exceeded the healthy 17 million mark for the fifth year in a row.

The automakers sold 17.05 million new cars, trucks, and SUVs in 2019. Even though buyers spent more on vehicles, analysts said companies had to boost sales with record discounts.

Following a long trend, 69% of new vehicles sold last year were trucks or SUVs, and truck sales rose 2.6% year over year. Auto sales went up, according to Autodata Corp. again 10.1%.

General Motors' sales decreased 2.5% in the reporting year as United Auto Workers cut inventory levels within 40 days in the fourth quarter. Ford sales decreased 3.2%, while Fiat Chrysler sales decreased 1.4%. Toyota sales decreased 1.8% and Nissan sales decreased almost 10%.

The Edmunds.com auto prices website predicted that more than half of the new vehicles sold last year were SUVs and had a 50% market share for the first time.

Also for the first time, Fiat Chrysler's ram pickup hit the Chevrolet Silverado in full year sales when GM converted factories to build a new version of the Silverado.

Sales of electric vehicles rose almost 37% last year to just over 236,000, Autodata reported.

Tesla reported worldwide sales on Friday without highlighting the US. Electric vehicle company Palo Alto, California, announced that sales increased over 50% to 367,500.

The past year has been strong as uncertainty waned as talks about a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico and progress towards a trade agreement with China, said Jeff Schuster, president of global vehicle forecasting at LMC Automotive, a consulting firm.

Schuster predicted stability for this year, but wrote that sales could be slightly lower than in 2019.

Last year’s sales opposed opportunities to win, especially as high interest rates and record prices put pressure on some buyers, said Jeremy Acevedo, senior manager of industry knowledge at Edmunds. "If something has taught us in 2019, you can't underestimate the power of a strong economy," he said. Edmunds provides content for The Associated Press.

The average new vehicle sales price in December was, according to J.D. Power and LMC at an estimated $ 34,602, setting a new record. Truck and SUV prices are estimated to be $ 36,935, up $ 655 from 2018. Average car prices were $ 27,461, a small increase over the previous year.

According to LMC and J.D. Power should reach the average incentive or discount per vehicle of $ 4,600, a record high that has increased almost 7% since 2018.

Thomas King, President Analytics at J.D. Power, said record sales prices show that automakers are building the types of vehicles that people want to buy. However, the record incentive level "means that the supply is still too high in relation to total demand".

Other major automakers that reported sales on Friday included Honda, which rose 0.2% and Hyundai, which rose 4.7%. Subaru sales rose 2.9%, with the all-wheel drive manufacturer posting record sales for the eleventh consecutive year. Sales of the Volkswagen Group also rose by 1.8% in 2019.