California new-vehicle registrations have fallen for five consecutive quarters. 
 -  Chart courtesy of California New Car Dealers Association.

California new-vehicle registrations have fallen for five consecutive quarters.

Chart courtesy of California New Car Dealers Association.

The California new-vehicle market declined for the fifth consecutive quarter during the period ending in June, providing further proof that the market has plateaued after several years of big increases, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.

New-vehicle registrations in the second quarter fell 1.1% from the year-ago period to 514,773 registrations. Through June, 2018 new-vehicle registrations fell 2.2% from the year-ago period to 1.027 million, which is what the trade group predicted after new light vehicle registrations fell 3.4% from the year-ago period. The association predicts the market will end 2018 at around 2 million new-vehicle registrations.

"We are encouraged that California vehicle sales are on track to reach about 2 million for 2018," said Taz Harvey, the association's chairman. "While the market continues to shift in types of vehicles sold, we are experiencing consistent buyer behavior geared more toward larger vehicles. This increased demand continues to demonstrate consumer interest in purchasing larger, more convenient, family-friendly vehicles to meet their transportation needs."

Trucks own 54.1% of the market, with first-half registrations climbing 5.6% from the year-ago period to 514.470. In contrast, first-half passenger car registrations fell 10.1% from the year-ago period to 512,826. The market’s first-half performance is on par with the rest of the country, which registered a 7.7% increase in light truck registrations through June and a 12.1% increase in passenger car registrations, according to the association.

The trend toward trucks is also reflected on the regional level — more so in Southern California, where light truck registrations increased 6.1% to 285,060 through June, and passenger car sales decreased 11.1% to 300,791. In Northern California, first-half light truck registrations increased 3.7% to 161,994 percent, while passenger car registrations fell 10% to 137,584.  

The association's report also showed that electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle segments continue to gain ground, with new-vehicle registrations increasing 10.2% in the first half compared to the prior-year period. Looking closer at the data, plug-ins and electric vehicle sales were both up more than 1.4% combined through June. Hybrid sales, however, continued their long downward trend, with first-half registrations inching down 0.4% from a year ago to 40,011.

By brand, sales increased by more than 10% for six brands, with Toyota once again leading the way a 17% share of the market in the first half and the Honda Civic coming in as the best-selling model with registrations totaling 43,857. On the truck side, the Ford F-Series led the way through June with registrations totaling 26,336.

Editor's note: This story first appeared on F&I and Showroom, a companion publication.