Credit Crisis Takes Toll on Dealers
U.S. auto sales last month hit their lowest level since February 1993. Overall sales, unadjusted for business days, were down 26.6 percent from September 2007, and 12.8 percent year to date. A hoped-for recovery on the strength of falling gas prices never materialized, as tightening credit and the financial crisis on Wall Street kept consumers away from dealers’ lots.
In response to the critical situation facing dealers, American International Automobile Dealers Association President Cody Lusk yesterday released a statement urging Congress to pass a comprehensive economic recovery package. “Legislation will allow Americans to move forward from the current economic crisis by providing necessary liquidity to capital markets and by improving credit rates so consumers can obtain car loans and dealers can keep their doors open,” said Lusk. “International auto dealers look forward to the passage of this bi-partisan bill and a return to financial stability and security.”
International Makes Lose Market Share
For the first time in six months, domestic automakers regained the majority share of the American market. In August of 2008 they held 45.3 percent of the market. In September they jumped to 52.3 percent. International makes in September made up 47.7 percent of the share with 460,182 vehicles. Of the international makes, Toyota held the greatest share percentage with 15 percent.
The loss of share for international nameplates was reflected in the list of America’s top ten selling vehicles. The Nissan Altima fell from number eight to the 12 spot, and was replaced in the top ten by the Chevy Malibu. The number one selling vehicle in September was, for the second month in a row, the Chevy Silverado pickup. The best selling international vehicle was the Toyota Camry in the number three spot. The Camry sold 29,486 in September, a 33 percent drop from its August sales.
Declines Prompt Incentives
After eight months of weak sales both domestic and international automakers have kicked their incentive programs to the next level. Incentive spending went up an average of 13.5 percent to $2,933 per vehicle in September. Incentives on cars fell an average of 8.4 percent to $1,714 while incentives rose 29 percent to an average of $4,137 on pickups and SUVs.
Truck Sales Up
Thanks in part to incentives and tumbling fuel prices, total light duty truck sales in September reached 485,342. Not a bad showing considering the current financing pinch, but still down 21.8 percent from August 2008. Cars, meanwhile, fell 23.8 percent from August ’08. It no longer appears consumers are concerned with saving money on gas; they are looking to save money, period. And that means postponing plans to buy any new vehicle.
See below for a complete breakdown of September 2008 monthly and year-to-date sales by international nameplate.