The U.S. auto industry sold a little over 4.7 million cars in 2019. That year, total car and light truck sales were approximately 17 million in the United States. U.S. vehicle sales peaked in 2015 at roughly 17.4 million units and plateaued thereafter.
Light vehicle sales fall amid pandemic
In 2020, the U.S. auto industry is facing a tough year ahead, considering that auto sales in the North American region are projected to contract by around 27 percent in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the economy begun to reopen, monthly sales returned to near pre-pandemic levels in May.
Focus on fuel economy
The U.S. auto industry had one of its worst years in 1982, when customers were beginning to feel the effects of the 1973 oil crisis and the energy crisis of 1979. Since light trucks would often be considered less fuel-efficient, cars accounted for about 77 percent of light vehicle sales back then. Thanks to improved fuel economy for light trucks and cheaper gas prices, this picture had completely changed in 2019. Between 2013 and 2019, prices for Brent oil roughly dropped by 40 U.S. dollars per barrel. The decline occurred in tandem with lower gasoline prices, which came to about 2.6 U.S. dollars per gallon in 2019 - and cars only accounted for less than 30 percent of light vehicle sales that year.
The figures for 1951 to 1976 were taken from the wardsauto.com website (please note that this content has been put behind a registration wall). Monthly values have been added up. The term car refers to light vehicles other than light trucks.