We really didn't expect good news... J.D. Power and Associates, the global information services company who seem to have highly regarded insight within the industry, is predicting auto sales this year to hit short of their original estimates. According to the firm, declining consumer confidence, lower spending, and turbulent financial and economic market conditions will contribute to an anticipated drop in new light-vehicle sales in 2008 that will put total sales at their lowest level since 1994.

U.S. light-vehicle automotive sales as recently as 2000 and 2001 topped 17 million units and retail sales last year were a more disappointing 16.2 million units. It was originally assumed that sales in 2008 would even lower, at 15.7 million units. Now, weak retail and fleet sales have driven that number down to J.D. Power's estimate of 14.95 million units.

Press Release after the jump.

[Source: J.D. Power and Associates]

J.D. Power and Associates Reports:

U.S. New Light-Vehicle Sales in 2008 Forecasted to Reach Lowest Point in More Than a Decade

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 18 March 2008 - New-vehicle sales in 2008 are expected to reach their lowest levels since 1994, dropping to 14.95 million cars and light trucks, according to J.D. Power and Associates. New-vehicle sales for 2008 were originally forecasted at 15.7 million units.

"While the automotive industry's slow performance in January and February certainly contributes to the anticipated drop in new-vehicle sales, declining consumer confidence and spending, as well as turbulent financial and economic market conditions, are primarily driving the decline," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of automotive forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

Additionally, a weaker retail and fleet market both contributed to the overall reassessment of total new-vehicle sales for 2008. Retail sales were initially forecasted at 12.6 million units, but are now expected to decline to 12.3 million-down from 12.8 million in 2007. General economic conditions, coupled with less widespread incentives, are driving the retail decline. Fleet sales have already experienced a weaker-than-expected start in 2008, but a further decline is anticipated, as daily rental sales are not projected to return to pre-2007 levels.

"The downturn in retail sales-coupled with declines across the fleet market-also contribute to the overall reassessment of new-vehicle sales for 2008," said Bob Schnorbus, chief economist at J.D. Power and Associates. "Unfortunately, the current economic environment is fraught with uncertainty and risk, with the financial crisis, worsening oil prices, and weak housing and stock markets steadily impacting other sectors of the economy. As such, our revised forecast is better positioned to reflect the challenges automakers will face in the months ahead."

In the first quarter of 2008, sales are expected to average 15.2 million units, with sales in the second quarter falling to approximately 14.8 million units before beginning a slow rebound during the second half of the year and into 2009.

About J.D. Power and Associates

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2007 were $6.8 billion. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.