US Light Duty Vehicle Sales Down 31.9% In October; “Probably the Worst Sales Month in Post-WWII Era”

Jose Michael

Sales of passenger cars in October 2008 surpassed those of light trucks for 51.1% of the market. Click to enlarge.

Sales of light-duty vehicles in the US dropped 31.9% by volume year-on-year in October to 838,156 units, according to Autodata. There were 27 selling days for October 2008, versus 26 days for October 2007. Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing, termed October 2008 “probably the worst industry sales month in the post-WWII era.

Sales of passenger cars dropped 23.6% by volume to 428,089 units; sales of light-duty trucks plunged 38.9% to 410,067 units. Cars once again edged back past trucks to take 51.1% of new vehicle sales in October 2008. October 2008 also saw a 16% drop in the average price of gasoline in the US (all grades) to $3.112, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

General Motors. GM suffered a 45% drop in sales by volume down to 170,585 vehicles in October. GM truck sales of 97,119 were down 51% and car sales of 73,466 were off 34%. GM attributed the steep decline in vehicle sales to a significant drop in the market’s retail demand as uncertainty over the deepening credit crisis impacted consumer confidence.

The market has been shrinking for three years, but in October we saw a dramatic decline for the industry and also reflects an unprecedented credit crunch that is dramatically impacting the entire US economy—from the housing market to big and small companies to banks to family run businesses. The credit freeze has also had a very negative impact on consumers’ confidence and their purchase behavior across America.

We outpaced the competition with our sales results in August and September, and fell back with the industry in October. If you adjust for population growth, this is probably the worst industry sales month in the post-WWII era. We believe there is considerable pent-up demand from the last three years, but until the credit markets open up and consumer confidence improves, the entire US economy, and any industry like autos that relies on financing, will suffer.

—Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing

Despite the poor results in October, there were a few bright spots for individual GM car and truck lines. Chevrolet Malibu retail sales were up 129%; the all-new Pontiac Vibe recorded a 6% total sales increase; Saab retail sales were up 7.4%; and GM sold 44,500 Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Avalanche full-size pickups in October, further solidifying its segment leadership.

GM hybrids continue to build sales momentum and the company has broken through the 10-thousand vehicle sales mark. A total of 1,496 hybrid vehicles were delivered in the month. Hybrid sales included: 372 hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe, 193 GMC Yukon and 230 Cadillac Escalade 2-mode SUVs delivered. There were 325 Chevrolet Malibu, 22 Saturn Aura and 354 Vue hybrids sold in October. GM has sold 10,549 hybrids so far in 2008.

Toyota. Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA., Inc., reported October sales of 152,101 vehicles, a decrease of 23% from last October by volume. Car sales were down 14.5% to 94,236 units; light truck sales were down 33.7% to 57,865 units.

Passenger car sales were led by Camry and Camry Hybrid, which posted combined sales of 30,556 units, a decrease year-on-year of 9.4%. Corolla recorded best-ever October sales of 27,386 units, up 6% by volume over the year-ago month. The Prius mid-size gas-electric hybrid posted October sales of 11,804 units, down 10.3% from the prior year.

TMS posted October sales of 16,310 hybrid vehicles, down 13.7% from October 2007.

Ford. Ford sales (including Volvo) dropped 30.2% in October 2008; sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles were down 29.2% to 129,121 units. Sales of passenger cars were down 26.8% to 40,854 units; sales of crossover utility vehicles were down 38.8% to 22.552 units; sales of SUVs were down 53.9% to 9,102 units; and sales of trucks and vans were down 19.2% to 56,613.

Ford’s sales leading F-Series dropped 16.3% to 43,324 units.

Chrysler. Chrysler sales dropped 35% to 94,530 units. Sales of passenger cars were down 37% to 25,014 units; sales of light-duty trucks were down 34% to 69,516 units. Chrysler’s top-seller was the light duty Dodge Ram (down 21%), which reached 10,747 units.

Honda. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., posted October sales of 85,864, a decline of 24.6% by volume year-in-year. Car sales were down 22% to 51,400 units; trucks sales were down 29.5% to 34,464 units.

Honda’s Fit achieved an October record of 6,478, up 33% year-on-year in its second month available as a completely redesigned 2009 model. Sales of the Civic Hybrid dropped 29.1% to 1,621 units.

Nissan. Nissan sales dropped 33% year-on-year to 56,945 units. Sales of passenger cars dropped 18.3% to 39,052 units; sales of light trucks dropped 51.8% to 17,893 units. Nissan’ top seller, the Altima, saw sales drop 18.5% to 17,753 units.

Nissan had a few gainers. Sales of the Versa climbed 2.7% to 6,889 units. Maximasaless climbed 33% to 4,341 units. And the Rogue’s sales increased 10.8% to 5,584.

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