Auto sales plunge in September

The numbers on auto sales were unbelievably bad for September — Ford down 34%. Honda down 24%, Toyota down 32%, Nissan down 37%. Amazingly, G.M. was at the head of the pack with sales down only 16 percent. (I guess those Escalade Hybrids are selling like hot cakes).

Blame this one on the credit crunch because CNBC is saying that lack of financing was directly responsible for the drop. GM fared better due to an aggressive discounting campaign.

Major automakers reported plunging U.S. sales for September on Wednesday — led by a 34 percent slide at Ford Motor Co — as an escalating credit emergency slammed a slumping industry and raised new doubts about when the world’s largest auto market would hit bottom.

The downturn in auto sales for September coincided with a crisis on Wall Street and claimed even the auto industry’s better-performing brands.

Sales were down 24 percent at Honda Motor Co Ltd, 32 percent at Toyota Motor Corp and 37 percent at Nissan Motor Co Ltd.

U.S. industry sales leader General Motors Corp, which was more aggressive in discounting its vehicles, managed to keep its September sales decline to a relatively small 16 percent to take a larger share of a rapidly declining market.

“Consumers and businesses are in a very fragile place,” Ford sales chief Jim Farley said. “An already weak economy compounded by very tight credit conditions has created an atmosphere of caution.”

Chrysler LLC was also expected to post lower sales.

The bleak auto sales results represent an early reading on the recent economic impact of a credit crisis that has triggered a rapid consolidation in banking and ongoing government efforts at a rescue plan over the past month.

On an industry-wide basis, analysts had expected auto sales to drop to a 13.5 million annual rate in September, down from 16.2 million a year earlier and from August’s 13.7 million.

Earlier this year, a sharp rise in gasoline prices accelerated a shift in consumer demand toward more fuel-efficient cars and away from large trucks and SUVs.

But in recent months, auto industry executives and dealers have said the lack of credit for car shoppers has supplanted gas prices as a reason for lost sales.

Ford said customers were being forced to use more cash to close deals and said the credit-market uncertainty made it impossible to forecast when the industry would bottom out.

The political debate in late September in Washington over a still-pending bailout for the financial sector stopped car buyers in their tracks by injecting a new note of uncertainty, Ford’s chief sales analyst George Pipas said.

“It was tantamount to a natural disaster,” he said.

The drop in auto sales comes despite stepped-up discounting on 2008 models, including an employee-pricing offer from GM.

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Auto sales plunge as credit crunch hits – Reuters
Ford Auto Sales Collapse – CNBC

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