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U.S. auto sales preview:

New vehicle sales in January are forecast by Cox Automotive to show a surprising gain when announced next week. Light new-vehicle sales are expected to rise 2.7% from a year ago, but fall 19.8% from last month. The research firm expects the seasonally adjusted annual rate to finish near 15.6M, a large increase from the 13.3M pace seen in December.

“As we start 2023, high interest rates continue to hold back the new-vehicle market, while some concerns with inventory supply appear to be falling away,” noted Cox economist Charlie Chesbrough. Inventories are said to be improving, although some Asian brands continue to have extremely limited availability. TrueCar forecasts a 16M unit SAAR pace for the month and sees average transaction prices falling 2% from December.

Automakers expected to post big gains in January include BMW (OTCPK:BMWYY), General Motors (GM), Honda (HMC), and Tesla (TSLA) – while Stellantis (STLA) and Toyota (TM) are seen giving up market share for the month. S&P Global Mobility forecast battery electric vehicle share is expected to reach 7.4% in January to mark an all-time record high mix level. Tesla’s (TSLA) downward price adjustments are said to be a notable factor.

“While this is the first shot in a BEV price war, the reaction of other auto companies will determine whether the January mix level will be a blip in the trend or a dynamic tipping point in the electrification progress of the market,” noted S&P.