Friday, February 13, 2009

Polk Predicts the Impact of U.S. Government Incentives on Automotive Sales

/PRNewswire/ -- Based on detailed analysis and evaluation of the current economic stimulus package expected to be voted on today in Washington, Polk analysts predict the current proposed government incentive will increase U.S. light vehicle sales by 94,000 units in 2009, providing consumers with an average rebate of $330 for each new vehicle purchased.

Throughout the negotiations between the House and the Senate over the economic stimulus plan, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) spearheaded a provision to help revive the sagging automotive market. Under the current proposal, consumers who buy a new vehicle will be able to deduct the sales tax from their income taxes.

Polk analyzed vehicle prices, sales tax rates, registrations by state, and income tax brackets to develop its rebate forecast. The sales projection forecast is based on measuring the efficiency of past incentive programs across the automotive industry, together with current economic conditions including limited credit availability, low consumer confidence and a rising unemployment rate.

A previous proposal also included a deduction for interest expenses on new vehicle financing. Under that plan, Polk estimates the average rebate would have been $1,250 per vehicle, and would have provided a sales boost of 359,000 units in the U.S.

"Although the current tax incentive is not as generous as the initial one, it is nevertheless an encouraging measure. This incentive program could be even more successful if coupled with additional steps to boost consumer confidence that would drive more showroom traffic for dealers," said Lionel Yron, director of Consulting & Analytics at Polk.

"For example, Hyundai just launched a special program where U.S. consumers can return their newly purchased vehicle if they lose their income within a year. As a result, Hyundai's sales are up 14% in January while overall, the industry is down 37% compared to January 2008," explains Yron. "The magnitude of this gap hints at how much market uncertainties weigh on consumer spending."

Another interesting point of comparison is to look at the steps taken by Western European governments to spur automotive demand in their region. In Germany, consumers can receive a rebate of 2,500 Euros (equivalent to $3,200 USD) if they scrap their old vehicle when purchasing a new one. According to Polk estimates, this measure is expected to increase light vehicle sales by 200,000 units for 2009 and should push the German car market just above 3 million units.

"Because of the fixed rebate amount, small car buyers will benefit from a greater discount. As such, Polk expects to see robust sales gains in this segment. The scrappage bonus may very well ignite a sustained recovery for the German car market," commented Ulrich Winzen, chief analyst at Polk.

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