GM has worst sales month since 1975

November 04, 2008|By From Sun News Services

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. had its worst U.S. sales month since 1975 last month as reduced access to loans and a weaker economy kept consumers off dealer lots.

GM said its sales of cars and light trucks tumbled 45 percent from a year earlier. Ford Motor Co. saw a 30 percent decline, and Toyota Motor Corp. posted a 23 percent drop. Honda Motor Co. sales were down 25 percent, and Nissan Motor Co.'s slid 33 percent.

"If you adjust for population growth, it's the worst sales month in the post-World War II era" for the industry, said Mike DiGiovanni, GM's chief sales analyst. "Clearly, we're in a dire situation."

Industrywide, U.S. auto sales fell for the 12th straight month in October, extending the longest slide in 17 years. Tight credit, falling consumer confidence and the weakening economy hurt automakers again last month.

"People are feeling a hell of a lot less flush then they've felt in the better part of a generation," said Joe Phillippi, an analyst at AutoTrends Consulting in Short Hills, N.J. "Everybody is taking it on the chin."

The pain was spread among all types of vehicles. At Ford, sales of trucks, sport utility vehicles and crossovers were down 28 percent, while car sales declined 27 percent. At Toyota, light-truck sales fell 34 percent, and autos fell 15 percent.

Another carmaker, Volkswagen, reported that its sales declined 7.9 percent.

"The all-time low level of consumer confidence in October was reflected in particularly poor showroom traffic," Brian A. Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Capital, wrote in a report to clients.

New lending restrictions by General Motors Acceptance and Chrysler Financial have significantly hindered sales. GMAC offers financing only to consumers with credit scores of at least 700, which excludes 42 percent of Americans, and Chrysler Financial no longer offers leases.

Automakers have had difficulty attracting customers for much of the year, but September and October were particularly challenging. Fewer than a million vehicles were sold in September, the first time that has happened since February 1993.

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