New Car Sales Were Dreadful. Why Car Stocks Win Either Way.

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August light-vehicles sales missed estimates—badly. The fig is simply a surprise, but the reasons down it aren’t.

U.S. car sales–expressed arsenic an annualized selling rate–came successful astatine 13.1 million for August, acold beneath estimates for 14.5 cardinal units. The fig comes retired from manufacture information providers precocious connected the archetypal oregon 2nd time of each month, aft each the idiosyncratic companies person released numbers.

Car stocks aren’t reacting though. General Motors (ticker: GM) banal was unchanged successful Thursday premarket trading, arsenic was Ford Motor (F) stock.

The stocks didn’t bash thing due to the fact that the reasons for the anemic income are wide known: precocious prices and nary inventory. Both are a relation of the planetary semiconductor shortage that is constraining planetary car production. But adjacent erstwhile the shortage ends, different factors apt tin assistance boost car stocks instead.

The shortage has been with investors—and the industry—all year. It was expected to beryllium getting amended successful the 2nd fractional of 2021, but car companies, including Tesla (TSLA), are taking works downtime portion they hold for parts.

U.S. dealers person astir 23 days of inventory connected lots. That’s down by astir 27 days twelvemonth implicit year,  according to Deutsche Bank expert Emmanuel Rosner, and that’s a large crushed prices are up. “The affirmative pricing and inducement trends are a motion that underlying request remains strong,” Benchmark expert Mike Ward tells Barron’s. Strong pricing is simply a affirmative and a large crushed that some Ford and GM reported better-than-expected second-quarter numbers.


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Investors shouldn’t hide the terms paid astatine the dealership goes to the dealer, and the terms paid by the trader is what GM and Ford receive. A deficiency of acquisition incentives and discounts, however, is 1 of the factors boosting realized pricing for car makers.

But precocious pricing has limits. Morgan Stanley expert Adam Jonas raised the anticipation of a buyers’ onslaught owed to pricing. “Very debased inventory is [clearly] a factor,” wrote Jonas successful a Thursday report. “But what astir nosebleed-above MSRP pricing for….vehicles.”

MSRP stands for manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Customers are having to wage much than that to get a car. Jonas believes customers mightiness beryllium waiting until prices fall.

A buyers’ onslaught would mean determination is immoderate pent-up request for caller cars successful the U.S., which besides tin payment car stocks. Eventually erstwhile accumulation normalizes, prices tin travel down and measurement tin assistance boost profits.

New car income annualized astatine astir 17 cardinal successful the archetypal fractional of 2021. That’s down to astir 14 cardinal successful the 2nd fractional truthful far. That 3 cardinal car spread mightiness not beryllium lost—those purchases mightiness conscionable beryllium pushed into 2022 and 2023.

Car stocks besides aren’t reacting to the Wednesday fig due to the fact that the lingering semiconductor shortage is simply a long-known issue. GM banal has declined 14% implicit the past month. Ford shares fell 6%. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average roseate 3% and 1%, respectively.

GM seems to person kicked disconnected the downward move. The institution gave anemic guidance for second-half 2021 net erstwhile reporting its second-quarter numbers. Once again, a deficiency of chips is simply a large reason.

Write to Al Root astatine allen.root@dowjones.com

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