Automotive loadings surged in Q1
May 8, 2012
Revised autos and parts production data has significantly increased our volume forecasts for the auto sector. Year-0ver-year growth is now running well over the double-digit mark. Automotive loadings were at 3.698 million in March, significantly above the 3.4 million we forecasted last month. Because of the revised historical data, volumes were only 1.0% above February, but year-over-year gains have improved dramatically, up 13.0% in March.
Vehicle sales surged above 15 million units early in the year but have settled down recently. They still remain on at a strong level and are driving further production gains. Our outlook for auto sales in 2012 calls for a continuation of this good news with additional growth possible in the latter half of the year.
The main risk is if this was mostly inventory replenishment and the stabilizing sales environment slows that inventory growth. If that is true then the second half of the year is likely to see some corrective action in parts inventory. If the current run-rate growth continues then we are likely to see year-over-year growth top the 20% mark in the middle of 2012.
After small declines in 2006 and 2007 automotive freight dropped 12.3% in 2008 and a further 18.2% in 2009. Loadings jumped in mid-2009 but grew at a slower pace during 2010; however, annual growth in 2010 was strong at 11.8%. Volumes were stable for most of 2010 and 2011 before starting to move dramatically higher in October 2011. There was a modest reduction in volumes during 2011Q2 on the heels of Japanese supply disruptions. Since then, year-over-year gains have shown a dramatic surge with the last 2 quarters hitting double-digit growth. 2011 ended with an annual gain of 5.3%.
Automotive production was at a high level during the early and mid-2000′s but it was not in a growth mode. Production and sales are at a lower level right now but are growing and are contributing a significant amount of growth to this recovery.
Volumes are expected to flatten over the next couple of quarters but will remain at a very high level. The year-over-year growth could top 20%. After that the prior year comparisons will be reduced but the market should still see strong volumes. We expect to see growth above the industry average for the next few years.
After the 2011 gain of 5.3% we should see very strong growth in 2012, up 14.7%. Growth will then slow down but remain above the industry average, up 4.8% in 2013 and 5.8% in 2014.
REVISED DATA: 2011 growth moved higher from 3.6% to just 5.3%.
Automotive is mainly movements of component parts but also includes both finished autos and other transportation equipment. FTR’s data is seasonally adjusted and measures both short and long-haul OTR segments.
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