Friday, 7 November 2008

Car sales in October fall 23% (UK)

Last month, we reported that the UK Government's investment of £537bn would boost cars sales but how wrong were we. October cars sales fell a further 2% upon September, were they plummeted by 21% - the sixth month in a row that figures have fallen.

The new car sales figures for October show that just 128,352 vehicles were sold, a 23.05% fall from the same period in 2007.

The drop in sales is the biggest decline since 1991 and the SMMT has said that the slump in new cars being sold could continue into the third quarter of next year. Among the notable big losers year-on-year were Chrysler, which sold 75.75% less vehicles, Renault, down 53.74%, Jeep, down 62.58%, and Alfa Romeo, down 42.95%. The winners are Jaguar, up 22.41%, Volvo, up 23.35%, and Dodge, up 10%, were the only listed car makers to post year-on-year sales increases. Selected Dodge dealers on the new car broker website Broadspeed is offering two range topping Avenger SXT 2.4 litres saloons for the list price of one. The Avenger SXT is meant to cost £18,255, although Chrysler dealers would undoubtedly knock a significant chunk off at the moment.

“Some manufacturers have got five to six months of unsold stock,” said Broadspeed director Simon Empson. “The motor trade is beyond desperate - it's in crisis.” "The very first call I had was from a father who was going to buy the two cars, have one himself and give the other to his son," he added. Import operations like Dodge in the UK have brought in large numbers of new cars that they are now struggling to sell. “Dealers have a lot of stock they cannot shift and clearly they are now prepared to do so at a loss.”

The figures show that 1.92 million new cars have been sold so far this year, down 8.7% overall on the same period in 2007. The UK's best-selling car last month was the Vauxhall Corsa, though the Ford Focus remains the best-seller in the year-to-date figures. Sales of luxury cars like Bentley - which has caused a few showrooms to close down have fallen the fastest, though MPVs and large SUVs are also hard-hit. Superminis are still selling strongly. This was the only sector of the market that saw any growth. The diesel market share also rose to a record high of 45.6% during October as consumers look to buy more economical models with lower CO2 emissions. The slump in sales has been mirrored in the U.S and Europe. Toyota, the world's biggest-selling manufacturer announced its operating profit in the last quarter fell by 69%.

The Bank of England hopes that the 1.5% interest rate cut will improve the UK economy slightly.

A detailed report of slow car sales:

Detailed UK registration figures for October have been released, with all but two manufacturers recording a dramatic reduction on the same period last year. Overall, the market fell by 23.05%, but with November and December being relatively quiet months for new car sales, it’s clear that the total of sales for this year is going to be substantially down on 2007.

The SMMT figures will make especially depressing reading for anyone who hoped that September’s dismal numbers marked the bottom of the slump. Luxury manufacturers have been hit particularly hard, with Bentley recording a massive 47.6% drop over October 2007, the company registering just 87 cars. Porsche has dropped 38.3% and Aston Martin is down by 33.0%.

Specialist SUV manufacturers like Land Rover and Jeep have been particularly badly hit by the economic downturn, and the recent record fuel prices. Land Rover’s registrations declined by 57.9% compared to last year, Jeep’s by 62.6%.

Among mainstream manufacturers, Renault has posted the most dramatic fall. Last October, the company registered 9,356 cars in the UK, this year it’s managed just 4,328 in the same month – a 53.8% fall. The company is also down 25% on its year-to-date sales compared to last year.

Mitsubishi and Peugeot have also had nightmares, down 47.2% and 39.8% respectively. Chrysler has pretty much ceased to be a volume brand in the UK, with sales falling by 75.8%. The company registered just 138 cars in the UK in October.

Among the premium makers, Audi has once again fared best – losing just 11.8% compared to October ’07 – following on from a slight increase in year-on-year sales in September. BMW has slid 12.2% and Mercedes has slumped by 31.9%.

Among the carnage, good news is hard to find. Ford will be very pleased to have lost only 5.5% over last October. Jaguar has continued to increase sales on the back of the XF and the revised X-Type launch, posting a 22.4% increase, and Volvo has somehow managed to register 23.3% more cars this October than it did last year.

“October has proved another difficult month for the UK motor industry,” commented Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive, “action is needed to help restore consumer confidence and encourage buyers back to showrooms.”

Used cars sales have also been affected. According to the latest report from auction company BCA, the value of secondhand cars is still falling. The company says that the average value of a car passing through its auctions in October was £4,743, a £69 reduction on last month, but £743 less than the same period last year.

It’s the fourth month in a row that BCA’s average auction value has been below £5,000, and the news makes clear that – in addition to the dramatic decline in new vehicle registrations, buyers are also shying away from used cars.

BCA’s Tony Gannon reckons that the problem is caused by ‘short-termism’ among professional buyers: “the fear is that further price falls will wipe out any possible profit margin. Dealers holding large volumes of retail product have to turn stock quickly and efficiently or face the prospect of inventory depreciating by often substantial amounts as wholesale prices fall, and the price guides try to catch up."

On the other side on the Atlantic, car sales in the U.S last month dropped to levels not seen since 1983 as the effects of the credit crunch and global downturn took their toll.

In the mass market GM suffered worst, selling 168,719 vehicles, a 45% drop in volumes compared to October last year. GM’s North American marketing chief, Mark LaNeve, has described the month as “probably the worst industry sales month in the post-world war two era."

Volvo's sales halved over the same period, as did Porsche's, with the German maker suffering particularly badly from the lack of liquidity in the auto finance sector.

Despite this appalling result, analysts believe that Porsche may have made a profit larger than its revenue, due to its unique part-hedge fund, part-car maker status, and that shareholders may again benefit from a large special dividend.

The company's full-year results will be published at the end of this month. Sales are down across the sector, though other car makers escaped with relatively light falls in sales: Certain car firms like Lexus saw sales drop by 37.6%, Chrysler by 35%, Nissan by 33%, Ford by 30%, Honda by 25% and Toyota by 23%.

Chrysler LLC U.S sales figures:

The firm which comprises the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands reported total October 2008 U.S sales of 94,530 units, down 35% from the same month last year. Chrysler suffered the most losses selling a mere 19,903 vehicles in October which represents a decrease of 51% compared to the same month a year ago. The Jeep brand delivered 21,360 units in October, down 33% from last year while Dodge sold 53,267 vehicles, a 27% decline from October 2007.

"While October was a very tough month for everyone in this business, we as an industry must focus on the fact that there are still many serious car buyers out there, and every company has an equal opportunity to win their business," said Jim Press, Chrysler LLC Vice Chairman and President.

"From a Chrysler perspective, we are pleased that despite this marketplace downturn, our critically important Dodge Ram launch is on schedule and our overall pickup truck share is on target. We look forward to rolling out the rest of our 2009 model year vehicles with improved quality and fuel economy and fighting for those customers who are in the market," Press added.

Toyota U.S sales figures:

In what may be one of the worst months in U.S automotive sales in more than 20 years, the Toyota Group which consists of the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands reported U.S October sales of 152,101 vehicles, a decrease of 25.9% from last October, on a daily selling rate basis. More specifically, the Toyota division -including Scion- posted October sales of 135,818 units, a decrease of 24.2% from last year while Lexus reported sales of 16,283 units, a 37.6% drop from the same month a year-ago.

Toyota's passenger cars recorded October sales of 84,904 units, down 14.2% from the same period last year. Even the Prius didn't manage to escape unhurt with sales of 11,804 units, a 13.6% drop from last year. Surprisingly, the Corolla achieved its best-ever October sales with 27,386 units, up 2.2% over the year-ago month. The firm's light truck sales came up to 50,914 units, down 36.5% from October 2007. Scion posted October sales of 6,743 units.

Lexus passenger cars (IS, ES, GS, SC and LS) sold worse than their SUV siblings with October sales of 9,332 units, a decrease of 40.2% from October 2007. The luxury firm's SUVs meaning the RX, GX and LX models recorded October sales of 6,951 units, down 33.7% from the year-ago month.

Overall, for the first 10 months of the year, Toyota has sold 1,724,902 passenger cars and light trucks in the U.S, down 10.9% from last year while Lexus' 220,502 vehicles, off 18.6% from a year earlier.

Meanwhile in China, Chery's sales tumbled 47% to 17,997 units in October, outpacing the 1.44% dip for overall passenger-car sales.

Jin said the move was among a raft of measures Chery had taken to meet the current challenges in the industry, but the carmaker expressed confidence about next year and said it plans to launch new models soon.

China's passenger car sales posted year-on-year declines in August and September for the first time in three years, dragged down by high inflation and soaring fuel prices. The flagging stock market, influenced by the global financial crisis, and the gloomy economic outlook also further restrained vehicle purchases despite lower prices offered by vehicle manufacturers in the hope of boosting sales.

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