Automakers reported mixed U.S. sales results for
November on Monday, with some new or more fuel-efficient models
performing well despite consumer malaise over high gas prices and
the weak economy.
But even with rising sales of small cars and crossovers, the
industry is predicting things will get worse in 2008. General Motors
Corp. said Monday it is cutting scheduled first-quarter production
by 11 per cent, while Ford Motor Co. said it would cut scheduled
production by seven per cent. Ford's top U.S. sales analyst, George
Pipas, said the automaker is predicting sales will be at their
slowest pace in a decade in the first half of 2008.
Shares of automakers fell. GM dropped $1.22, or four per cent, to
$28.61 in trading Monday, and Ford shares declined 26 cents, or 3.5
per cent, to $7.25. Toyota shares fell $1.53, or 1.4 per cent, to
$110.92. Shares of Nissan declined 23 cents, or one per cent, to
$22.67, and Honda shares dropped 92 cents, or 2.7 per cent, to
November sales fell two per cent industrywide in November,
according to Autodata Corp. Car sales were up six per cent but sales
of trucks and sport utility vehicles fell seven per cent.
GM, the biggest automaker by U.S. sales, said its November sales
dropped 11 per cent, hurt by falling demand for trucks as well as
cuts in sales to low-profit rental car fleets, while Chrysler LLC
said sales fell two per cent. Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. both
reported flat sales for the month. Honda Motor Co.'s sales were up
five per cent while Nissan Motor Co.'s sales rose six per cent.
``Rising fuel prices and sliding home values delivered a one-two
punch this month,'' Jim Lentz, president of Toyota's U.S. sales arm,
said in a statement. ``But the industry's not down for the count.
Demand for fresh, more fuel-efficient products continues to show
GM's November truck sales fell 15 per cent, a casualty of the
slowing pace of new home construction, while car sales declined four
per cent. GM said it also cut sales to low-margin rental fleets by
29 per cent compared with last November. GM's sales were down six
per cent for the first 11 months of the year.
Mark LaNeve, GM's vice-president of North American sales, service
and marketing, said GM wasn't competitive enough on its incentive
spending for 2008 model year pickup trucks. He said the company
wants to remain disciplined about incentives but could ramp up
spending. Edmunds.com, the automotive information site, said GM
spent an average of $3,136 per vehicle on incentives in November,
lower than Ford and Chrysler but above its Asian rivals.
``We will make sure we vigorously defend our truck position,''
Ford's November results ended a yearlong string of losses. Every
month of this year, Ford's sales compared badly to 2006, when it was
still selling thousands of its old Taurus sedans to rental fleets.
But Oct. 31 marked one year since the end of production of that
Pipas said Ford is on track to cut rental-fleet sales by 143,000
in 2007, or more than 30 per cent. Ford cut rental-fleet sales by
six per cent in November and plans to continue cutting in 2008,
Pipas said. Sales to more profitable government and commercial
fleets were up 25 per cent for the month.
Ford said its car sales fell two per cent but truck sales rose
two per cent, largely on the strength of the Ford Escape small sport
utility vehicle and Ford Edge crossover. Sales of the newly
redesigned Ford Focus jumped 18 per cent. Ford's sales dropped 12
per cent for the first 11 months of the year.
Toyota continued its drive to overtake Ford this year as the No.
2 automaker by sales, outselling Ford by nearly 15,000 vehicles.
Toyota's sales were flat for the month compared with last November,
with a four per cent increase in car sales _ including a 109 per
cent jump for the hybrid Prius _ offset by a five per cent drop in
sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Toyota's sales increased
four per cent for the year.
Chrysler's car sales shot up 41 per cent, led by the new Sebring
convertible as well as the Dodge Charger and Avenger. Those sedans
helped lift Dodge's car sales by 75 per cent for the month, Chrysler
said. But Chrysler's truck sales were down 13 per cent, and the
company's sales were off three per cent for the year.
Honda's car sales rocketed up nearly 20 per cent on the strength
of the new Accord sedan and the subcompact Fit, which saw sales
double over last November. But the automaker's truck sales fell 11
per cent. Honda's sales rose three per cent for the first 11 months
of the year.
The Associated Press reports unadjusted figures, calculating the
percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month
compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report
percentages adjusted for sales days. There were 25 sales days last
month and 25 in November 2006.