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August Auto Sales Defying Gloom-and-Doom Forecasts

Japanese makers still struggling through product shortages.

by on Aug.31, 2011

GM products like the Chevy Cruze continued to post sales gains in August.

Despite the roller-coaster ride on Wall Street, sales of new vehicles remained steady during August with Detroit makers collectively experiencing an increase in demand, according to new estimates of current sales trends.

If there was any drag on the U.S. new car market for August it was the result of the ongoing product shortage faced by some of the key Japanese makers due to the March 11 Japanese tsunami and earthquake.

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Both Edmunds and TrueCar.com, two Internet sites that collect and analyze car and trucks sales data, indicated August sales will be up 8% over year-earlier totals — and also up slightly from July — despite the turmoil in the stock market.  That echoes other recent reports that suggest that despite concerns about a possible double-dip recession consumers have been slowly loosening their pocketbook strings.

The sales projections, however, were made before Hurricane Irene hammered the East Coast on what is usually a busy weekend for sales, so the final numbers that are due out later this week could be weaker than initial projections.

Detroit’s automakers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — are all expected to post double-digit, year-over-years sales increases, but only GM and Chrysler will see month-over-month sales increases in August from July.

“Auto sales stayed on a relatively flat road this month, even as the stock market took a roller coaster ride,” said Lacey Plache, Edmunds chief economist.

“Stronger buying conditions are telling consumers to go ahead and make their car purchases, but a weak economic landscape is telling them to wait until later this year, or even longer. This is the battle that will determine exactly how much the auto industry will grow this year,” she said.

Plache said Edmunds also projects Toyota has done little in August to build on its momentum from July, when it gained a modest 1% in sales — with August expected to bring a decrease of 0.2 percentage points in market share over the same period. Toyota’s August sales are expected to be down 14.4% compared with last year.

Even with lingering inventory issues still to sort out, Honda will likely show some month-over-month sales gains this month. Edmunds.com projects that Honda’s August sales will grow 5.4% over July, with a market share gain of 0.2 percentage points. Compared to last year, however, August sales are still expected to be off about 25%.

“We fully expect August will be the worst month of the year in terms of the inventory situation” caused by the March disaster, said Mike Accavitti, Honda of America’s new marketing chief.  “The good news is that our plants are back up in full production and product is now on its way to dealers,” which could bode for a better performance in September.

Edmunds.com forecasts that Ford will be the only major automaker this month to report a decline in sales from July to August. Ford’s sales are expected to be down 0.5% from July, leading to a market share loss of 0.5 points.

“The auto industry is a mixed bag this year, due to economic uncertainty; sales have improved compared to last year, but nowhere near the potential we had expected,” said Jesse Toprak, VP of Industry Trends and Insights for TrueCar.com.

“The strongest correlation to new car sales is the Dow Jones Industrial Average and it was shaky and nervous in August,” Toprak said.

For August 2011, new light vehicle sales in the United States are expected to be 1.077 million units, up 8% from August 2010 and 2% from July 2011.

The August 2011 forecast translates into a Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate, or SAAR, of 12.2 million new car sales, flat from 12.2 million in July 2011 and up from 11.5 million in August 2010, according to Edmunds.

Retail sales are up 4.9% compared to August 2010 and fleet and rental sales are expected to make up 20% of total industry sales in August 2011.

The industry average incentive spending per unit will be approximately $2,663 in August 2011, which represents an increase of 3%, Edmunds predicted.

Toyota’s Profits Tumble By 99%

Hit hard by Japan’s March disaster, as well as weak U.S. dollar.

by on Aug.02, 2011

CEO Akio Toyoda says Toyota faces serious headwinds even after recovering from Japan's March disaster.

Toyota Motor Co. pointed its corporate finger at the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami for the 99% decline in its earnings for the first-quarter of its latest fiscal year – but longer-term concerns about the strong yen pose problems that could extend well into the future, the automaker warned.

The maker raised a previously bleak earnings forecast for the full 2012 fiscal year, but the increase still fell below the general consensus of industry analysts who have been observing the maker’s ongoing recovery from the March disaster, which cost Toyota 599,000 units of last production for the April – June quarter.

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“In Japan and North America where the effects of the earthquake were particularly serious, vehicle sales declined substantially,” noted TMC Senior Managing Officer Takahiko Ijichi.

For the quarter ending June 30, Toyota’s net income plunged to just 1.1 billion yen, or $14 million, down from 190 billion yen, or $2.5 billion, a year earlier.  Sales and revenues fell by 30%, to 3.44 billion yen, or $44.5 million.

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Toyota’s U.S. Plants Down for a Week

Production of new Honda Civic won’t recover until “sometime” in autumn.

by on May.27, 2011

The 2012 Honda Civic will remain in short supply until at least the coming autumn.

Toyota’s entire U.S. production network will be sitting idle next week, the maker deciding to stretch out the normal Memorial Day holiday break because of ongoing shortages of Japanese-made parts.

Honda, meanwhile, says that while its global factory network appears to be recovering faster than it first anticipated it will be facing more problems getting production up to speed for the new 2012 Civic model, which is likely not to reach normal volumes until “sometime” in autumn.

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A new report underscores the magnitude of the crisis touched off by Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  In Japan, Toyota production was off by 74.5% for all of April, while its global production declined 48%.

The disaster had only marginal impact on automotive assembly plants but 100s of supplier facilities were damaged or destroyed.  Others have been struggling under the rolling blackouts implemented after the quake touched off a triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

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Japanese Production Bouncing Back – But Automakers, Suppliers Ready to Abandon Quake-Prone Nation

“Frantic” efforts and “war rooms” helping suppliers get back to business.

by on May.12, 2011

The March 11 quake -- and the strong yen -- could lead Toyota and others to increasingly shift more of their production out of Japan.

It won’t be a good year for Japanese automakers large or small.  The disaster that shook the island nation two months ago all but shut the industry down for a month and makers will be operating at a fraction of normal levels for some time due to shortages of parts ranging from plastic panels to microchips.

But a massive, behind-the-scenes effort could end the crisis a bit sooner than expected – though it leaves many observers wondering just how much Japan’s home auto industry will be hollowed out in the process.

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Even as manufacturing slowly creeps back to normal, industry officials are warning that they may shift more of their operations – both automotive assembly and parts production – out of quake-prone Japan.

“How much longer should we insist on producing in Japan?” asked Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa, as the maker announced a 77% plunge in its profits on Wednesday.

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Quake Sends Toyota Profits Plunging

Quake, strong yen raising serious questions about Toyota continuing production in Japan.

by on May.11, 2011

Good news, but mostly bad news from Toyota's CEO Akio Toyoda, as he reveals a 77% decline in profits.

This is an updated version of the report TheDetroitBureau.com initially posted.

Slammed by a devastating earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis, Toyota Motor Co. says its profits for the first three months of 2011 plunged 77%, dipping to their lowest levels in nearly two years. Net income came in at 25.4 billion yen, or $314 million, down from 112.2 billion yen during the same period in 2010.

Though the maker said it is speeding up efforts to restore its global production network to full operations, Toyota officials warned they won’t have a full sense of just how big an impact the March 11 disaster will have on future profits for some time.

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The quake alone wasn’t the only problem shaking Toyota’s traditionally solid finances.  The strong yen has made it increasingly difficult to export from home market plants, leading CEO Akio Toyoda to acknowledge, during a Tokyo news conference, that, “I fully understand that we can’t go on with just a desire to protect manufacturing in Japan,” Toyoda, 55, said.

The quake-spawned crisis put a downward spin not only on the final months of Toyota’s fiscal year, which ended on March 31, but hints at further problems ahead.  With some lingering effects likely to be felt through year-end, Toyota is all but certain to lose its crown as global sales leader, while profits are expected to be depressed, as well.

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