California’s new-car sales market is cooling down, but Golden State dealers remain on track to again ring up more than 2 million unit sales in 2017, according to the Sacramento-based California New Car Dealers Association.
CNCDA released its first-quarter 2017 report on Tuesday, showing 506,745 new-car sales in the period. That was up less than 1 percent from 503,463 in the opening quarter of 2016.
Association officials expected the California market to cool in 2017 after an extended run of robust quarterly gains, but the state is outperforming the national market, which saw a year-over-year decline of nearly 1.5 percent in the first quarter.
California sales of alternative-powered vehicles helped bolster statewide numbers.
“Our customers bought 5.5 percent more light trucks this quarter compared with one year ago, but at the same time 4.8 percent of all new vehicles registered January through March were zero-emission vehicles and plug-in hybrids, an all-time record,” said CNCDA Chairwoman Cheryl Bedford, of Sunset Auto Center in Lompoc
The CNCDA report projected 2.08 million new-car registrations for all of 2017, nearly matching 2.09 million reported in 2016. Both fall just short of the all-time record of 2.15 million set in 2005.
During the depths of the recession, in 2009, statewide registrations totaled only 1.04 million.
Tuesday’s report concluded: “The state new-vehicle market is expected to plateau and decline slightly over the next several years, but sales should remain strong, based on historical standards.”
The Honda Civic, which was the best-selling new vehicle in California in 2016, retained that title in this year’s first quarter, with 21,141 registrations. That easily topped the second-place Honda Accord’s 16,925 registrations. The Ford F-Series full-size pickup truck was the best-selling American-made vehicle in the state, with 13,335 registrations.
Toyota remained the state’s leader in overall market share, capturing 19.5 percent of all first-quarter new-vehicle registrations, which included fleet transactions.
Sales of electric vehicles ranked high in specific segments.
The Tesla Model S, for example, topped statewide sales of luxury/high-end sports cars, with 3,130 registrations in the first quarter. The Palo Alto-based automaker’s model beat out others made by long-established luxury manufacturers Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, with 2,735 registrations in the first quarter, was the fourth best-selling subcompact passenger car in California, ranking just ahead of the Fiat 500.
The CNCDA report was compiled by Pennsylvania-based Auto Outlook Inc., an independent research firm specializing in automotive markets.