September auto sales in the United States are expected
to be weak due to a credit crunch, high gas prices and the troubled
housing market, reflecting an overall slowdown for the year but
little effect from the brief strike against General Motors, industry
Indeed, the impact of the two-day strike could be small in what
could become the most sluggish year for sales since 1998, according
to industry experts.
Jesse Toprak, chief economist for the auto information site
Edmunds.com, predicts Honda Motor Co. will be the only automaker to
report an increase in sales, helped by the arrival of the new 2008
Honda Accord. Automakers are scheduled to report September sales
``No one is immune to this general weakness we have in the
marketplace,'' Toprak said.
Auto sales will probably be down four per cent compared to last
September, JPMorgan auto analyst Himanshu Patel said.
Patel predicts Ford Motor Co. will be among the weakest
performers, with double-digit declines from last September, as the
automaker cut back on incentives as well as sales to rental car
companies. Patel said GM should be flat while Chrysler LLC will also
see some declines.
Ford's continuing slide in U.S. market share should be a source
of concern for investors, Lehman Brothers analyst Brian Johnson
Johnson said Ford's retail sales _ which don't include sales to
rental, government or corporate fleets _ are down about 10 per cent
for the year, as Ford's aging F-150 faced increasing competition
from newly redesigned GM pickups, the new Toyota Tundra and high
incentive spending on the Dodge Ram. The success of Ford's
crossovers are also eating into sales of its mid-size sport utility
vehicles, Johnson said.
``We believe that Ford will continue to suffer severe market
share loss next year, as a result of sharply increased competition
for some of Ford's key large trucks and the company pulling away
from models oriented towards fleet,'' Johnson said in a recent note
After a slight uptick in August sales, September will fall back
into the sluggish pace the industry saw in June and July. Patel
forecast an annualized selling rate of 15.9 million vehicles in
September. The rate shows what sales would be if they continued at
the same pace for the full year. The rate was 16.6 million in 2006.
Johnson anticipates the weakness will continue and the industry
will end 2007 with full-year sales of 16 million vehicles. If so,
that would be the slowest year since 1998, when a 54-day strike
crippled GM's production, and would be one million vehicles lower
than the peak of 17.3 million in 2000, according to Ward's
AutoInfoBank. Johnson said the Federal Reserve's recent rate cut
could help things rebound next year.
The United Auto Workers' two-day strike against GM in September
may have had a minor impact on consumers who were deciding whether
to buy or not, Toprak said. But he said a strike that short couldn't
have made a measurable difference. Toprak said GM had about two
months' worth of vehicles in its inventory at the time of the
``If anything, it may have helped them in terms of giving them a
couple days' break to adjust production in terms of demand,'' he
GM lost production of about 25,000 vehicles due to the strike,
according to the automotive forecasting firm CSM Worldwide Inc.