Cash for Clunkers Runs Out, Carmakers Immediately Feel the Slump

A few days ago I pointed out :

Once existing stimulus programs and credit expansion attempts subside, there won’t be much left to pick up the slack. The consumer won’t be able to go back to business as usual unless he goes through a long period of reduced consumption, deleveraging, and savings

Now we are seeing this in action as Ford Sept. sales fall 5.1 percent:

Chrysler Group LLC and Ford Motor Co. said Thursday their September sales fell, revealing a tough hangover from this summer’s Cash for Clunkers buying spree.

Ford and other automakers got a big lift in July and August from clunkers, which spurred sales of nearly 700,000 new cars and trucks. The government program’s big discounts lured in many customers who otherwise would have waited until later in the year to walk into dealerships.

Now automakers are starting to feel the effect. Ford sales of cars and light truck fell 5.1 percent from a year ago to 114,241. The decline followed two straight months of rising sales.

Chrysler said it sold 62,197 vehicles last month, off 42 percent in the same month last year.

Cash for Clunkers and summertime production cuts kept inventories of popular models low during the month, but even so, Chrysler predicted its market share will rise 0.8 percentage points from August levels. The company increased factory output to replenish supplies.

“While we had some bright spots in September, it was still a challenging sales environment for the industry,” Peter Fong, CEO of the Chrysler brand, said in a statement.

Sales of Ford’s popular F-series trucks rose 3.5 percent, while sales of the new 2010 Taurus sedan increased more than 60 percent.

The September results fell 37.2 percent from August totals, which were boosted by the government’s Cash for Clunkers program. Two of Ford’s vehicles — the Focus and Escape — were top sellers in the program that ran during July and August and offered big discounts to buyers.

Sales of the Focus fell 64.1 percent from August, when Ford sold 25,547 of the small, fuel efficient cars. The company sold 9,182 in September.

The Escape crossover posted a month-over-month sales decline of 58.5 percent, with Ford selling 8,692 of the vehicles last month, compared to 20,933 August sales.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker was the first of the automakers to release its monthly U.S. sales numbers on Thursday. Other automakers are expected to follow later in the day.

Volvo, which Ford intends to sell, posted a 16.3 percent increase.

Automakers sold a combined 1.3 million vehicles in August for a seasonally adjusted sales rate, or SAAR, of 14.1 million. Many analysts expect a SAAR of 9.3 million for September.

Shares of Ford fell 7 cents to $7.14 in midday trading.

The past 2 months were a lofty basis for some of the carmakers’ future earnings estimates. Expect those to be revised downward big time as reality kicks in.

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