Auto dealers see U.S. sales edging up 3.4% as shortages continue

Keith Naughton

U.S. auto sales will climb just 3.4% this year to 15.4 million cars and trucks as the semiconductor shortages continue to constrain vehicle inventory, auto dealers predict.

The National Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 16,000 U.S. car retailers, said the lingering chip shortage slashed inventory on dealer lots by 59% in December compared to a year earlier. The organization said it expects inventories will remain diminished into the second half of 2022.

The twin crises of the pandemic and the semiconductor shortage have taken a toll on U.S. auto sales, which totaled 14.93 million last year, up 3.1% from 2020, when lockdowns hit the economy. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. auto market had a five-year run of sales topping 17 million. The dealer group said inventory is “slowly improving,” but noted the chip shortage cut global auto production by 11.3 million vehicles.

“The coronavirus pandemic and resulting microchip shortage and production cuts significantly constrained new-car and truck inventory at dealerships across the country,” NADA chief economist Patrick Manzi said in a statement. “Constraints further led to suppressed new-vehicle sales, as well as used-vehicle inventory shortages and increased vehicle prices.”