02 August 2006

Detroit Falls Behind

Here are the ranks of the major automakers by U.S. sales for July 2006:

1. General Motors 410,322 vehicles; down 20%
2. Toyota 241,826 vehicles; up 16%
3. Ford 241,339 vehicles; down 34%
4. Honda 151,804 vehicles; up 10%
5. DaimlerChrysler 150,349 vehicles; down 35%
6. Nissan 86,408 vehicles; down 16%
7. Hyundai 47,205 vehicles; up 6%
8. Kia 26,429 vehicles; up 2%
9. Mazda 25,963 vehicles; up 5%
10. BMW 23,611 vehicles; down 12%
11. Volkswagon 22,627; up 5%
12. Mitsubishi 10,376; up 1%
13. Volvo 10,323; down 10%
14. Susuki 8,030; up 13%
15. Saab 3,658 vehicles; down 41%
16. Isuzu 1,336 vehicles; up 34%

(Some smaller foreign automakers omitted).

Three months ago, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler all had more sales than both Toyota and Honda. The "big three" now have just a 52% market share, an all time low. Ironically, the major "foreign" automaker who isn't doing well in U.S. sales this month, Nissan, is the one thinking of taking over similarly flailing General Motors.

Analysts attribute much of the shift to high fuel prices which make big American vehicles with poor gas mileage unattractive, although interestingly HUMMER sales were down only 3% perhaps due to their free year of fuel promotion or its position at the peak of its category. Truck sales were weak compared to car sales across the board. For example, at GM truck sales fell 31% while car sales fell 3%. At Ford, truck sales were down 44%, while car sales were down 6%.

Still trucks v. cars can't explain the whole story. Toyota truck sales, for example, while not selling as strongly as its cars, were up slightly, while GM and Ford and Chrysler truck sales were all down dramatically. Within DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes sales were up, while Chrysler division sales were down. American made has increasingly developed a stigma, true or not, of poor quality vehicle with a growing share of the automotive market.

No doubt another hidden, but important, factor is the trend is the slip of the value of the dollar in the international currency markets. The Euro and the Yen are both up vis-a-vis the U.S. dollar, making imported cars and parts cheaper, and imports more expensive.