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AutoPacific Forecasts 15.7 Million U.S. Light Vehicle Sales in 2021 Amid Pandemic Rebound


NORTH TUSTIN, Calif. (March 3, 2021) – Automotive consulting firm AutoPacific’s recently released forecast of U.S. light vehicle sales predicts 2021 will reach a total of 15.7 million vehicles sold. Up from 14.6 million units sold in 2020, the improvement of over 1 million sales is powered mainly by a strong decrease in Covid-19 infections across the nation and associated economic recovery. 

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Vaccinations Drive Increased Leisure and Business Travel

As Covid-19 vaccinations proliferate throughout the population, AutoPacific anticipates an economic recovery that will power automotive sales, including the return of fleet sales, of which daily rental fleets comprise the largest portion of. “As Americans begin to travel by air again, both for business and pleasure, demand for rental cars will return,” says AutoPacific Vice President Ed Kim. After daily rental car fleet demand dried up in 2020 as travel came to a grinding halt, AutoPacific expects a reversal in 2021, helping to driver the recovery of new vehicle sales.

Global Semiconductor Chip Shortage Tempers Recovery

In direct contrast to the recovery being driven by increased control over Covid-19 is a severe global semiconductor chip shortage that will lead to production losses around the world. “As virtually all new vehicles rely on chips due to their heavy computerization, plant closures are already in effect both in the U.S. and aboard due to lack of chip supply,” explains Kim. The chip shortage will have a negative effect on automotive sales recovery. As a result, used car demand will likely remain very strong through much of 2021, as it was in 2020 when Covid-related plant shutdowns resulted in very low new vehicle inventories.

Truck Product Market Share Continues to Increase

Despite the ups and downs of the economy and vehicle sales challenges, consumer demand for truck products, which include crossover SUVs, traditional SUVs, pickups and minivans, will continue to climb. AutoPacific expects trucks to comprise 77.6% of total light vehicle sales volumes in 2021, compared to 76.4% in 2020. Continued improvements in fuel economy mean that consumers can have the SUVs they want without the fuel economy penalties that SUV ownership in the past entailed.

Battery Electric Vehicles Expected to Climb Considerably

Battery electric vehicle (EV) sales are also expected to climb considerably in 2021 as both legacy and startup automakers roll out significant new all-electric products this year, finally providing Tesla with some real competition. AutoPacific forecasts approximately 375,000 EV sales in 2021, up from 262,000 in 2020.

About AutoPacific

AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm providing clients with industry intelligence and syndicated data. Unique to AutoPacific’s forecast methodology is the ability to balance economic and industry factors with real-world insight gained from consumer data collected by AutoPacific’s annual survey of new vehicle buyers, the New Vehicle Satisfaction Study. The firm, founded in 1986, also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in North Tustin, California, with affiliate offices in Michigan, Wisconsin and the Carolinas. Additional information can be found on AutoPacific's websites: and