The Cox survey asks dealers how they perceived the past 90 days, gauges their outlook for the next three months and identifies key factors affecting their optimism or pessimism. Cox surveyed 1,123 dealers — 595 franchised and 528 independent — for the fourth quarter. Cox weighs responses by dealership type and sales volume to calculate a diffusion index. An index number greater than 50 indicates dealers view conditions as positive.
Dealers’ overall sentiment about the vehicle market continued to cool though was still strong, scoring 60 in the fourth-quarter survey — down from 62 in the second quarter but up from 49 a year ago. Franchised dealers had a more positive view of the market than independent dealers, rating it 70 — down from 73 in the second quarter but up from 61 in the year-ago quarter. Franchised dealer outlook for the next 90 days dipped slightly, coming in at 69, though that still is considered strongly positive.
Yet dealers viewed the current new-vehicle sales environment as weak, producing a score of 45. It was one of only two times the index dipped below 50 in the survey’s existence. The other was in the second quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 economic ground zero, which drew a 39.
Many survey respondents called out higher costs.
“Prices on everything have been rising, including parts, accessories, etc.,” a Toyota dealer in the South said. “Also, the shortage of workers has caused wages to rise sharply.”