Good weather, at least in the light automotive segment. Expect an uptick – at least 6.6 percentage points from 2012 levels. For sure, 2013 will usher in a happier new year.

In the United States, new light vehicle registration is going to push the automotive industry above a 6.6 level established in 2012. That means 15.3 million vehicles that travel the compact, subcompact, and pickup of the industry’s segments.

This good news is based on the intelligence of the Southfield, Michigan-based R.L. Polk & Co., a leader in global automotive analysis.

Automotive Weather Report

Polk analyst are forecasters that know which way the wind blows – and as such are putting forth the following predictions:

  • North American production will increase to the 15.9 million range; an anticipated 2.4 increase from 2012, driven by an improving economy and regional expansion.
  • New 2013 vehicle introductions will dramatically escalate. Expect at least 43 new US vehicle introductions, up nearly 50 percent over 2012 levels.
  • Look to see as many as 60 vehicle redesigns in 2013.

New launch and refreshed product activity is likely to result in an uptick in registrations as showroom traffic and, in turn, sales tend to increase in the timeframe surrounding new introductions, according to Polk.

The organization anticipates continued economic recovery—in the industry and throughout the world. This, it expects, will refuel the US economy, says Anthony Pratt, Polk’s director of forecasting for the Americas. But he adds this caveat: “Don’t expect pre-recession levels in the 17 million vehicles range for many years.”

Also, he observes, “Our baseline forecast hinges on Washington’s ability to draft a budget plan that will avoid $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.”

Watchable Automotive Segments

Polk says keep a close eye on these automotive industry segments:

  • Large pickup trucks – The segment declined in the past five years, but expect growth resulting from model launches (2013 and 2014) from GM, Toyota, and Ford. These companies will showcase redesigned vehicles.
  • Mid-size sedans – This segment will continue leading the industry. Polk anticipates more growth, as redesigns compel competitors to keep pace.
  • Luxury – “This segment will be the one to watch in 2013,” comments Pratt. It will witness a significant launch activity within its compact sedan segment, which currently accounts for 2.9 percent of the overall industry. Also, gas-price decline could only help the small luxury crossover segment, Polk analysts expect.

Meanwhile, non-luxury compact crossover vehicles have grown by more than 50 percent in the last five years. Additionally, increased competition in this segment has created pricing pressures, which will result in continued growth, say Polk analysts.

Polk also forecasts the industry will experience continued growth in the compact and subcompact segments, as OEMs are introducing several new models in the coming year. Anticipated growth is largely based on increasing CAFE requirements and significant new product launch activity in the United States, as well as increased interest by younger buyers just coming into the market, according to the company.

On the “green” side, while the number of available hybrid models in the United States will increase this year, Polk anticipates only a slight improvement in this category from its current level of approximately 2.9 percent of the overall market and for several reasons, among them:

  • The continued significant price differential between hybrids and traditionally-powered vehicles
  • The high number of traditionally-powered vehicles that achieve similar mileage targets as those in the hybrid segment

Looking Ahead
Polk analysts are reviewing global light vehicle forecasts with customers through 2023. Polk expects a return to 16 million units in the US by 2015, if not before, barring unusual marketplace activity

Polk’s forecasting team analyzes market trends by region and serves as a comprehensive resource for manufacturers, dealers and suppliers to the light and commercial vehicle markets. The company charts light vehicle forecast (including passenger cars and light truck registrations and North American production volumes) through 2016:

About R.L. Polk & Co.
A privately held global firm based in Southfield, Michigan, Polk is the premier provider of automotive information and marketing solutions. The organization collects and interprets global data, and provides extensive automotive business expertise to help customers understand their market position, identify trends, build brand loyalty, conquest new business and gain a competitive advantage. Polk helps automotive manufacturers and dealers, automotive aftermarket companies, finance and insurance companies, advertising agencies, media companies, consulting organizations, government agencies and market research firms make good business decisions. It has operations in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. For more information, visit www.polk.com.


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