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Auto News From Cox March 17, 2023


Welcome to From the Newsroom, a roundup of news from Cox Automotive and perspectives from its analysts and experts on topics dominating the automotive industry.
The madness of March is in full swing, and that’s not a basketball reference. With extra chaos in the financial markets, Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke and the Industry Insights team are paying particularly close attention to data impacting the automotive industry. In the
Auto Market Report published this morning, Smoke notes, 
The better-than-expected start to this year is now hitting some speed bumps. We enter the vital spring season with real concerns about the demand continuing to stay strong.
However, as we cruise toward the first day of spring, we see some green shoots of optimism from dealers, as reported in the
Q1 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index published last week. The 3-month, forward-looking market outlook index rose sharply in the first quarter, with a majority of dealers expecting the Q2 auto market to be strong. 
The used retail vehicle market appears to be losing momentum compared to the solid start to the year. However, the used-vehicle supply is very low, and sales are healthy enough to force dealers to restock from a tight wholesale market. As a result, the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index increased in February to the month’s largest increase since 2009.
In this newsletter, Cox Automotive shares February updates on Kelley Blue Book’s
 average transaction prices and the Dealertrack Credit Availability Index

Register today: Join us for the Q1 Cox Automotive Industry Insights and Forecast Call on Monday, March 27, and the Q1 Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index Call on Friday, April 7. If you can’t attend the live event, sign up anyway and a recording will be sent to you.

We hope you find this selection of articles informative and helpful. Visit the Cox Automotive Newsroom for the latest on the industry’s most important topics. Bookmark the Auto Market Snapshot, a one-stop dashboard for the data our team is tracking.


U.S. auto dealer sentiment in the first quarter of 2023 changed little from Q4 2022. It remained at the lowest level since the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index (CADSI). At 43, the current market index is below the threshold of 50, indicating more dealers view the current auto market as weak. The index remained stable quarter over quarter and down 14 points year over year.
On a positive note, the 3-month, forward-looking market outlook index rose sharply in the first quarter to 52, up from 41 in Q4 2022. In spite of factors holding back their business, a majority of dealers are heading into Q2 with expectations for the auto market to be strong. The increase in Q1 breaks a trend of three consecutive quarters with a declining market outlook.
“Despite high interest rates and stubborn inflation, the U.S. consumer continues to prop up the economy,” said Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “Auto sales are slow by historical standards, but the sales pace has been improving in early 2023, giving dealers reason to feel somewhat optimistic about the year ahead.”

Read the press release for more details on the Dealer Sentiment Index and download the full results.


Tax refund season is failing to deliver the lift in sales we usually see in used-vehicle sales. Both the average amount and total dollars dispersed are down year over year. 

Meanwhile, used-vehicle prices are moving higher in both the wholesale and retail markets so far in March, which is bound to impact demand soon, according to Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke in his Auto Market Report video posted this morning. Plus, interest rates for both new and used vehicles increased last week compared to the volume-weighted average interest rates for February seen in Dealertrack.

According to the Dealertrack Credit Availability Index for all types of auto loans, access to auto credit improved modestly in February. All loan types saw loosening in February, with used loans loosening the least and new loans loosening the most.
Read the Auto Market Weekly Summary and watch the Auto Market Report video for more data and insights from Smoke on new and used retail sales and inventory, auto financing and Cox Automotive leading indicators.


The monthly CPI report was released by the government today, and it showed inflation is still up significantly year over year. In the auto markets, last month saw the average transaction price (ATP) of a new vehicle in the United States decline to $48,763, a decrease of 1.4% ($705) from an upwardly revised January reading of $49,468. Transaction prices last month were up 5.3% ($2,466) from year-ago levels, according to data released last week by Kelley Blue Book, a Cox Automotive company. Meanwhile, incentive spend rose to 3.0%, averaging $1,474, a level not seen since March 2022.
In February 2023, the average price paid was just $95 more than the average sticker, as prices continued to trend downward relative to sticker price. A year ago, the average ATP was nearly $1,000 over MSRP.
“After nearly a year of incentives below 3% of ATP, it will be interesting to see if this upward trend continues as inventory improves,” said Rebecca Rydzewski, research manager of economic and industry insights for Cox Automotive.

Check out the Data Point published last week for specific data on average prices and average incentive spend as a percent of ATP for non-luxury, luxury and electric vehicles.


Wholesale used-vehicle prices (on a mix, mileage, and seasonally adjusted basis) increased 4.3% in February from January. This was the largest increase for the full month of February since 2009’s 4.4% rise. The Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index (MUVVI) rose to 234.5, down 7.0% from a year ago. February’s increase was driven partially by the seasonal adjustment. The non-adjusted price change in February was an increase of 3.7% compared to January, moving the unadjusted average price down 5.6% year over year.
See the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index for additional details, and register to attend the Q1 2023 Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index Call on Friday, April 7, to hear about the latest MUVVI and trends that shaped the quarter. If you are observing the Good Friday holiday, a recording of the call will be available in the Newsroom on Monday, April 10.


The Cox Automotive Q1 Industry Insights and Forecast Call will be held on Monday, March 27, 11 a.m. EDT, shortly before the auto industry closes the book on the first quarter.
Our experts and analysts, led by Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke, will provide insights and data on how the auto industry performed in the first quarter and how the team sees the industry progressing through the first half of the year, including an update on our forecasts and predictions.

Looking ahead: This week, we will publish February updates to the Cox Automotive/Moody’s Analytics Vehicle Affordability Index, new and used inventory levels, including average listing prices, from vAuto data and the mid-month Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index.
Next week, the Manheim Market Insights video will be published along with Jonathan Smoke’s take on the latest monetary policy decisions from the Federal Reserve.

Please contact us if you have questions or want to connect with the Cox Automotive PR team.
“Despite high interest rates and stubborn inflation, the U.S. consumer continues to prop up the economy. Auto sales are slow by historical standards, but the sales pace has been improving in early 2023, giving dealers reason to feel somewhat optimistic about the year ahead.” 

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive, speaking on the findings from the Q1 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index
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