The US auto market has been on a roll over the past five years, reaching a whopping 17.5 million cars sold last year.
Much of the growth has been fueled by pent up demand after years of economic instability, easy access to credit and more recently, cheap gas.
However, sales data from March show that the growth in the industry is beginning to subside.
In March, analysts expected sales to reach an annualized pace of 17.3 million cars, but as the numbers rolled in Friday it looked like the industry would fall short of that.
Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota all came up short of projections.
Last week at the 2016 New York auto show, Business Insider sat down with several leading auto executives to get their view on the state of the US market this year and whether sales could climb from here to 18 million units or more. Here’s what they had to say:
We reassess the market twice a year in spring and fall which means we are about ready to start out spring assessment,” Toyota Group vice president and general manager Bill Fay said.
“Our outlook at the start of the year is that we expect this million-unit-a-year growth we’ve been seeing to start to subside in 2016.”
“We expect some growth in the market, but not to the extent we’ve seen over the past 6 years,” Fay added. “The figure we are evaluating this spring is our projection that the market will hit 17.6 million.”
“It’s a little better than last year in sales, but not the growth rate so the glass half full view is that the industry is leveling off at record levels.”
“I don’t see the [US] hitting 18 or 19 million,” BMW Group head of sales and market Dr. Ian Robertson told Business Insider.
“The US market is topping out at the moment and there’s a lot of inventory in the market as well. From that point of view, we see single digit growth this year.”
“We don’t see (18 million) for this year,” Lexus Group vice president and general manager Jeff Bracken said. “Our forecast for the industry is about 17.5 million for this year.”
Bracken believes that some in the industry may feel less enthused about the market because we are not seeing the same explosive growth we’ve seen over the past few years.
“If may not feel as robust, but 17.5 million is phenomenal number,” Bracken added.
“Our view is that if our dealers sell one more car than last year, we will be very happy.”
“After seeing five years of positive growth, I think it’s typical of man kind to start thinking that it can’t go on forever and asking themselves whether there’s a tipping point and are we there,” Porsche Cars North American president and CEO Klaus Zellmer said.
“Our view on this is that there’s a potential for Porsche to grow in 2016. If nothing terrible happens to dramatically slow down the economy, we believe our updated and expanded produced line with allows us to grow. We are with good reason optimistic, but it’s always good to be cautious and to be prepared,” Zellmer added.
“If we don’t hit it this year or next year, we won’t hit it this decade,” Zellmer said. “Because economies work in cycles and if we see a 7 year cycle that’s good. But if anything happens to the economy there won’t be enough of a buffer in terms of lowing interest rates to boost the economy.”