October 1, 2013

Looks Like It Was a Pretty Weak September for Auto Sales, Especially at GM

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 10:37 am

Not that I’ve been watching it particularly closely, but I didn’t expect this.

Reuters:

U.S. auto sales seen stalling in September after torrid summer

The U.S. auto industry’s sizzling summer pace stalled in September for the first year-on-year sales decline in more than two years as the month suffered because part of the Labor Day shopping weekend landed in August and there were two fewer days than last year to buy.

Despite September’s expected sales decline of 2 percent to 5 percent, analysts expect the industry’s momentum – it has largely outperformed the broader economy – to continue in the fourth quarter.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford was up 5.8% over last year, while Chrysler was up “less than 1%.”

So where’s the negative offset? Guess where (AP breaking story presented in full):

General Motors says its September sales dropped 11 percent from a year ago. Even the company’s big pickup trucks saw sales declines, with the Chevy Silverado down almost 11 percent and the GMC Sierra off 2 percent.

Industry analysts are predicting that total U.S. auto sales fell about 4 percent because Labor Day weekend was counted in August figures this year The normally strong weekend probably pulled sales from September into August.

GM says it sold almost 188,000 cars and trucks last month. The company says its sales to fleet buyers like rental car companies were off 27 percent for the month.

GM sold 12,730 Chevrolet Cruze compacts, less than half of what it sold a year ago.

Ford’s total of 185,146 came very, very close to GM’s official 187,195 (how does that round to the AP’s 188,000?).

GM claims that its 670,000 in unsold vehicles is a 64-day supply. Uh, no. If the company’s sales continue to average 200,000 per month as they have during the past two months, that’s a 100-day supply (670,000 divided by 200,000 is 3.35 months).

The other major point to make — the strength of which won’t be seen until all the numbers come out — is that the “Big Three” share of total sales, which is now in the low-40% range (correction: It’s in the mid-40s, and in September went to 45.2% from 44.3% a year earlier), has continued to trend down, and is about as low, if not lower, than it has ever been. (it still is nearly as low as it’s ever been; year-to-date this year is 45.5% vs. 45.0% in 2012).

That “fourth-quarter momentum” assumption above seems shaky.

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UPDATE, 11:45 a.m.: More — Toyota was down 4%, VW 12.2%, and Nissan 6%, with a quote:

That will make it look like sales “took a big hit in September,” said Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell, but “the industry is still selling more cars per day than it did last year.”

She has a point as long as the decline isn’t more than 6%, which remains to be seen.

UPDATE 2: Now that the Wall Street Journal’s data is out, we see that September 2013 had 1.139 million in sales in 23 days vs. 1.189 million in 25 days in September 2012. That boils down to 49,500 in average daily sales in 2013 vs. 47,500 last year — a 4% increase, compared to a nearly 13% year-over-year percentage increase in August (after equalizing for number of days).

At the very least, most of the momentum is gone.

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