JD Power-LMC forecast May U.S. auto sales down 5.7 percent

Automobiles are shown for sale at a car dealership in Carlsbad, California, U.S. May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Files

DETROIT (Reuters) - The days of lofty year-over-year increases in monthly U.S. auto sales may be reaching an end, industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said on Thursday.

May U.S. new vehicle sales will slide 5.7 percent from the same month a year earlier, in part because of two fewer selling days this year. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate closely followed by the industry will be 17.4 million vehicles for May, down from 17.7 million vehicles a year ago.

In April, the seasonally adjusted annualized rate for sales was 17.4 million vehicles as well.

The consultancies also lowered the full-year 2016 forecast for U.S. new vehicle sales to 17.7 million vehicles from 17.8 million.

“Vehicle sales growth appears to be flattening out,” said Jeff Schuster, head of forecasting for LMC Automotive. “While this is driven by an array of variables, including slow economic growth and stock market volatility, a pattern is emerging sooner than anticipated. While we do not anticipate a retraction in volume over the next 12-18 months, strong year-over-year growth will be difficult to come by.”

Deirdre Borrego, manager of automotive data at J.D. Power, said there is a chance that Memorial Day weekend sales may be stronger than now anticipated if automakers offer rich marketing incentives to lower prices for consumers.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli