Weak muscle car sales could be predictor for overall market

Weak muscle car sales could be predictor for overall market

The United States auto market set a record high for sales last year, but a declining muscle car segment could be the first indicator that those boom times are coming to an end.

Last year the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger saw their combined sales jump by nearly 21 percent, but the first seven months of 2016 have been a stark contrast to that tremendous growth. Through July the trio saw their collective sales tumble by 8.4 percent.

Although America’s muscle cars make up a small percentage of overall sales, they can serve as a barometer for the health of the overall market. That’s because their sales are typically tied to the health of the economy.

“You have the canaries in the coal mine — cars that are more discretionary rather than functional purchases, and cars that you see starting to decline first,” Karl Brauer, senior director of insights for Kelley Blue Book, told Automotive News.

Brauer noted that luxury cars can also be a good predictor of things to come. And just like the muscle car segment, luxury car sales have fallen by 13 percent this year.

So far the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger are handling the decline the best, with sales of both vehicles down 5.5 percent this year. The Chevy Camaro, meanwhile, has seen its sales drop by 15.4 percent. However, Chevrolet attributes that sharp decline to a recent model year changeover.

“A year ago we were running out the old model,” Chevrolet spokesman Jim Cain said. “We had higher inventories and higher fleet sales.”

Ford has already warned of a “very weak third quarter,” and it looks as though Q4 could also be a tough one for automakers as well.

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