Wednesday, November 5, 2008
US auto sales drop to lowest in 17 years
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - US auto sales plummeted 32 percent in October to the lowest monthly total since January 1991, led by General Motors Corp.'s 45 percent slide, as reduced access to loans and a weaker economy kept consumers off dealer lots.
Ford Motor Co. reported a 30 percent drop in car and light-truck sales from a year earlier, and Toyota Motor Corp.'s declined 23 percent. Honda Motor Co.'s slid 25 percent, Nissan Motor Co.'s were down 33 percent, and Chrysler LLC's fell 35 percent.
"If you adjust for population growth, it's the worst sales month in the post-World War II era" for the industry, said Mike DiGiovanni, GM's chief sales analyst, on a conference call. "Clearly we're in a dire situation."
Industrywide US auto sales fell for the 12th straight month, extending the longest slide in 17 years. Tight credit, falling consumer confidence, and the weakening economy, the same forces that suppressed buying in September, hurt automakers again last month.
October total sales dropped to 838,156 from 1.23 million, according to Autodata Corp. The last time light-vehicle sales were lower was 822,200 in January 1991, according to Autodata.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for the month was 10.6 million, the lowest since February 1983, the Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based provider of industry statistics said in a statement. The October 2007 rate was 16 million, Autodata said.
"People are feeling a hell of a lot less flush than they've felt in the better part of a generation," said Joe Phillippi, an analyst at AutoTrends Consulting in Short Hills, N.J. "Everybody is taking it on the chin right now."
The financial crisis has dented stock markets worldwide, and a $700 billion US financial aid package hasn't yet spurred renewed lending.
"The carnage was completely widespread" in the industry, GM North American sales chief Mark LaNeve said on the conference call. "In my 27 years, I never saw a month like this."
Industry sales in 2009's first half will be "sobering," Jim Farley, Ford worldwide marketing chief, said on a conference call. Sales this year may fall to fewer than 14 million vehicles, from 16.1 million in 2007, Ford sales analyst George Pipas said on the call.
GM, the largest U.S. automaker, reported sales of 168,719 cars and light trucks, compared with 307,408 a year earlier.
Sales at Ford dropped to 132,248 cars and light trucks, from 189,360, Autodata said.
Toyota, the largest Asian automaker, reported sales of 152,101 vehicles, down from 197,592 a year earlier. Chrysler sold 94,530 vehicles, a drop from 145,316 a year earlier, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said.
Some automakers said they may see sales improvements in November and December because of the US presidential election today and end-of-the-year promotions.
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