New car sales in the largest U.S. auto market have slowed this year as more and more drivers opt for less-expensive used cars.

New vehicles sales in California dropped 5.6% in the first half of 2019, setting the state on track for full-year sales to fall short of 2 million vehicles for the first time since 2014, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.

“It is not a huge surprise that after years of increased sales, we are seeing the market level off, reflecting the broader economic and political climates,” Ted Nicholas, the association’s chairman, said in a release Wednesday announcing sales for the first half of the year.

The drop in new vehicle sales in California is greater than the 1.5% decline seen in the U.S. from January through June. One reason could be that cars make up a bigger percentage of new model sales in California than around the rest the country. Sales of new cars, which include sedans and compacts, dropped by 10.8% during the first half of the year across the state while sales of new pickups, SUV’s, crossover utility vehicles and other light trucks fell by 1.1%.

Californians, who have long been known for their love of cars and trucks, are still buying vehicles. But they are increasingly turning to the used market. Sales of preowned models in California climbed more than 5% in the first half of the year.

Sales of new electric and hybrid vehicles continue to climb in a state where green transportation is in demand. In fact, the trade group says EVs and hybrids made up 13% of all new models sold. In addition, the California car group now estimates sales of fully electric vehicles will top 100,000 this year.

Much of the rise in EV sales in the Golden State is due largely to the popularity of the Tesla Model 3, which is built in Fremont, just outside of San Francisco. In the first half of this year, Californians bought 33,005 Model 3s. That means 1 in 4 Model 3s sold worldwide in the first half of this year was purchased in California.



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