Pickups Remain Strongest Vehicle Segment at Auction

Price changes for selective market classes for January 2016 versus January 2015. Courtesy of Manheim.
Price changes for selective market classes for January 2016 versus January 2015. Courtesy of Manheim.

Wholesale used vehicle prices (on a mix-, mileage- and seasonally adjusted basis) fell in January. It was only the second decline in the past eight months, and it brought the January reading to 125.2 — virtually unchanged from a year ago.

Although it has been anticipated that wholesale values would ease in 2016 as a result of higher supply, we suspect the first downward movement of the year was more the result of past margin compression than growing wholesale volumes, according to Manheim.

In any event, one thing is clear: Adjusted or unadjusted, retail sales were down and incentive spending was up in January — relative to a year ago. Total fleet purchases rose 14% in January, with sales into rental up more than 13%, according to Manheim.

In January, auction prices for rental risk units (adjusted for broad changes in mix and mileage) declined 0.6% from December and were down 3.3% from a year ago. Overall, however, this price series has remained in a narrow range for more than five years, according to Manheim.

Unadjusted prices set a new January high, based in part on a 7.6% decline in average mileage from a year ago, says Manheim. Auction volumes for rental risk units were down in January relative to last year.

Wholesale pricing for minivans has eased in recent months, but firm valuations for full-size cargo units kept the total van category up year-over-year in January, according to Manheim. Pickups, both midsize and full-size, remain the strongest segment in recent months and over the past year. Within the SUV/CUV category, full-size units have far outperformed the other subcategories.

In January, compact cars remained the weakest of the major categories, with a year-over-year decline of near 9%, according to Manheim. Luxury cars — and all of the subcategories in that segment — have also underperformed the market over the past year.

January Used Vehicle Index, courtesy of Manheim
January Used Vehicle Index, courtesy of Manheim

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