June Sales Headed in the Right Direction -- for Ford
It looks like Ford's current reputation as Detroit's strongest automaker is finally starting to rub off on its sales figures, as the Blue Oval saw its June numbers down "only" 10.7 percent compared to last year and its June market share rise three points.
The rest of the market? Despite some bright spots at the smaller automakers, the annual selling rate was actually lower in June than in May, coming in at about 9.7 million '” and that's compared to 16 million sales for the industry in 2007. On the other hand, the Detroit News reports the rate was above 10 million for most of the month and only dropped toward the end, the implication being that people were waiting to see what would happen to the Cash for Clunkers legislation before buying. I guess we can go with that reasoning for now and see what happens in July.
Getting back to the individual players, Ford did find some actual, no-spin-required good news with the Ford Fusion (pictured), sales of which were up 26 percent. The Ford Flex also seems to have gotten some traction, rocketing to a 246.9 percent increase, although one should keep in mind that the Ford crossover was just being launched last June, so comparing this year's sales with last year's is getting into apples v. oranges territory.
But things for the other big automakers remained pretty ugly, with a healthy dose of rationalization thrown in: For example, General Motors sales fell 33.4 percent, but the General's market share was up more than half a point over last year and its retail sales rose again in May. And yes, the Chevrolet Camaro outsold the Mustang.
Chrysler sales notched a 41.9 percent drop, but the automaker claims to have gained a point of share since May and blames most of the drop on fleet sales; Chrysler reports its retail sales were down just 16 percent. Oh, and it's muscle-car, the Dodge Challenger, found a 34 percent boost.
The big Japanese OEMs, Toyota, Honda and Nissan, saw declines of 31.9 percent, 29.5 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively, with the situation at Toyota looking especially dire. The world's No. 1 automaker has actually lost more than half a point of U.S. market share since last June, and, except for the Prius, its lineup is suddenly getting crushed pretty much across the board. Corolla? Down 54.6 percent. Camry? Down 39 percent. Tundra? Off 51.4 percent, about twice the drop of the Chevrolet Silverado / GMC Sierra and way down compared to the Ford F-150's 7.4 percent slide.
Trend-wise, I'm still seeing June's extremely modest sales improvements as coming more from pent-up demand than from any significant change in buyer behavior. Which makes me wonder how sustainable any turnaround might be if, say, gas prices spike again. After all, a significant reason Ford and Toyota look like they're going in different directions is that while the latter's small-car sales were tanking, FoMoCo saw a 7.1 increase in sales of the Expedition and sold about twice as many full-size vans as Toyota did Yaris subcompacts.
Now, a lot of people are hoping Cash for Clunkers will change this situation and get people thinking about fuel efficiency '” hey, I hope so, too. But until people start doing more than just "thinking" and start actually buying different types of vehicles, my concern is that the U.S. market is going to remain a bubble just waiting to get popped again.