Current Car Sales Trends Are Positive for C-stores

BOSTON — In line with the week’s Veterans Day celebrations, analyst Jessica Caldwell presented attendees of the 2015 SIGMA Annual Meeting with her list of heroes in the auto industry.

The biggest hero, especially for convenience store retailers, is growth of new car sales because new car owners will certainly need to fill up those vehicles in short order, according to Caldwell, senior analyst and director of pricing and analysis for, who delivered a presentation entitled “Consumer Behavior Regarding Automobiles and Fuel.”

Caldwell believes 2015 will be the best year ever for new car sales in the United States, projected to reach 17.4 million vehicles. For 2016, the executive predicted even better news as the automotive industry website predicts new car sales could reach 18 million vehicles.

“Things look pretty good. It’s the best news I’ve delivered,” she said.

More positive news for c-store operators is that consumers are buying larger vehicles again, with small SUVs especially attractive to women and baby boomers.

There are a few items on the negative side, though. One such item is sales of electrified vehicles, Caldwell said, defining this segment as hybrid, plug-in and electric vehicles.

“These vehicles only have a 2.8-percent share of the market,” she said. “Consumer interest is low. Some go to a showroom with the intention of buying an electrified vehicle, but they don’t often leave with one.”

Millennial purchases of new cars is also weak, with less than 4 percent of those in the 18- to 34-year-old age group buying new cars currently. Although this is a concern, Caldwell concluded that as millennials get married and move to suburban areas, like their elder generations, new car purchases will rise among this age group.

The 2015 Annual Meeting of SIGMA: America’s Leading Fuel Marketers took place Nov. 9-11 at Boston's Westin Copley Place. The event will return Nov. 2-4, 2016 at Washington, D.C.’s JW Marriott Hotel.

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