The weakest March auto sales in 34 years has the industry hoping against all available data that things will soon turn up. The news was particularly grim for the three domestic automakers, who continue losing share in spite of all-out efforts to improve their offerings. GM, Ford and Chrysler completed the first quarter with sales decreases of 49%, 43% and 46% respectively compared with a year ago. The data also refute claims that luxury brands are “recession proof.”
Still, carmakers cite the average 37% decline in sales, and a 20% higher sales rate than in February as better than expected by analysts, presumably the same ones who missed the collapse of the industry last year and are now either overcompensating or as clueless as the bond rating agencies that passed off junk as AAA paper because they were paid by the financial institutions making money off of them. Extravagant incentives by auto manufacturers, averaging $3,169 per vehicle, are thought to have propped up the market somewhat.
According to numbers from Autodata Corporation and released by American International Automobile Dealers Association, offshore brands made up 55.7% of March’s share with 477,921 sales, up significantly from 383,707 in February, which to be fair is historically a weak month. Asian brands claimed a 47.1% share and Europeans have 8.6 % of the U.S. market. These numbers are a significant increases from a year ago when Asian brands held only 44.4% and Europeans held 7.2%, and a decided setback for the once “Big Three” automakers in Michigan who continue laying off or firing the very people who were their most loyal buyers. National polls also show clear majorities against taxpayer assisted restructurings for them, so they are losing the vote in the marketplace and in the political arena.
Of the offshore-owned makes, Toyota held the greatest share with 15.5%, up from 14% in February. Repeating the February results, six of the top 10 selling vehicles in March were from offshore owned makers. (more…)