No Joy in May Global Light Vehicles Sales

Ken Zino of on No Joy in May Global Light Vehicles Sales

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The Global Light Vehicle selling rate improved to 76 mn units/year for May 2022, following “a very poor result in April, the respected automotive consultancy LMC Automotive said today.  (read on: US May Auto Sales – Record Prices as Sales Plunge -29%

Supply constrictions remain the major issue for the automotive industry, with makers unable to meet demand in most regions. In year-over-year comparison terms, sales were down 10%. In China, the reopening of manufacturing facilities in mid-April supported a rebound in sales for a moment. In the US, the industry is beset with problems, many of them self-inflected, including record high transaction prices, low inventory, and low incentives.

North America

 US Light Vehicle sales fell by 29.2% YoY in May, with the annual comparison being hurt by two fewer selling days than in May 2021, and a high base effect. That said, it was still a poor result, as Memorial Day failed to provide a boost to the market, which is still being impacted by low inventory. The selling rate slowed to 12.7 mn units/year, from 14.5 mn units/year in April. Average transaction prices hit a record US$45,502, while incentives dipped below US$1,000 for the first time in recent history, at US$950. May average monthly payments also reached a new record – at US$670, they increased by US$100 YoY.

Canadian LV sales are estimated to have decreased by 6.9% YoY in May, to 144k units. The selling rate likely picked up marginally to 1.47 mn units/year, from 1.46 mn units/year in April, but this is the first time in two years that the rate failed to reach 1.5 mn units/year for two consecutive months. The market remains sluggish, largely due to tight inventories. On the other hand, Mexican sales grew by 6.3% YoY in May, to 91k units. The selling rate accelerated to 1.18 mn units/year, the highest since February 2020.


West European selling rate increased to 11.4 mn units/year in May but remained on a weak base. “While the demand environment this year has become increasingly challenging, as consumer confidence has made a step-change down since the start of the war in Ukraine, it remains the supply side of the automotive industry that holds back better registration statistics,” LMC said.

East European selling rate was 2.6 mn units/year in May. The region’s largest market, Russia, tanked at selling rate of just 289k units/year, “a fraction of the levels recorded before the war in Ukraine. A rebound in sales is not anticipated in the short-term mainly due to severe supply constraints,” said LMC.


The notoriously opaque Chinese market rebounded in May after a sharp slowdown in April, according to advance data. The May selling rate reached 23.7 mn units/year, up 66% from April. In YoY terms, however, sales (wholesales) contracted by 7.7% in May and 8% YTD. “Looking more closely, the selling rate of Passenger Vehicles (PV) in May (21.5 mn units/year) was higher than those of both February and March. PV sales declined by only 1.3% YoY in May, while sales of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) fell by 40% YoY, indicating that the recovery was led mostly by PVs,” said LMC

“Such a strong rebound in sales reflects a fast recovery in production (which resumed in mid-April, prior to the lifting of the major lockdowns on 1 June). In May, PV production increased by 5% YoY, as OEMs ramped up manufacturing to meet pent-up demand. NEVs continued to lead the market, with their sales expanding by 116% to 440k units in May,” said LMC.

Elsewhere in Asia

Japanese market remains volatile because of supply. “The May selling rate was 3.8 mn units/year, down nearly 15% from April, bringing down the YTD selling rate to 4.1 mn units/year. In YoY terms, sales declined by 18% in May (the 11th consecutive month of contraction) and 16% YTD. Due to China’s lockdowns, the shortages of components intensified, causing supply constraints. In addition, sales were disrupted by the week-long national holiday,” said LMC.

Korean, sales remained slow-moving in May, despite a production increase. “As the Korean OEMs continued to prioritize the export market to take advantage of the weak won, the supply of new vehicles for the domestic market remained in severe shortage. The May selling rate was 1.56 mn units/year, the third straight month of slowdown. In YoY terms, sales contracted by 4% in May and 11% YTD,” said LMC.

South America

Brazilian LV sales fell by 0.7% YoY in May, to 175k units. The sales were clearly the largest in the year – beating April by 38k units – and caused the selling rate to accelerate to 2.07 mn units/year. “This was the strongest selling rate since December 2021. Availability appeared to improve for a number of popular models in May, enabling large MoM increases. However, perhaps in part because of the more robust sales, inventory overall actually decreased MoM in May, to 123.9k units, from 128.9k units at the end of April,” said LMC.

In Argentina, LV sales grew by 53.4% YoY in May, but that result was largely due to a low base, as sales in May 2021 were impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. “Compared to the last month of May that could be considered normal, in 2019, sales were down by 5.8%. The selling rate increased to 388k units/year in May 2022, up from 362k units/year MoM. Last month’s rate was the highest since June 2021, but the overall picture remains one of tight supply and concerns over high inflation and rising interest rates,” said LMC.

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