For DCX and Ford, mum's the word

Predicting auto sales is an industry in itself. But well into December, neither DaimlerChrysler nor Ford Motor Co. is ready to make public a U.S. sales forecast for 2002.

"There are strong crosscurrents in the auto industry right now," said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford's manager of corporate economics. "Right now, we're waiting for how much additional data we can look at."

She said Ford will probably give its forecast in time for the Detroit auto show in January.

Van Jolissaint, DaimlerChrysler's corporate economist, said there was so much uncertainty after Sept. 11 that the company is not ready to assign a number to its 2002 sales outlook.

Both economists agreed in general terms with widespread predictions that 2002 sales will fall, but not sharply. Seven forecasts from interviews for these stories averaged out to 15.3 million light vehicles, compared with an expected 17 million this year. But those 2002 forecasts ranged from 14.6 million to 16 million. Among those is General Motors' prediction of 15 million sales.

Jolissaint and Hughes-Cromwick both said they are trying to determine how many sales were pulled ahead into 2001 by this fall's generous incentives and what effect that will have in 2002. Positive factors they cited included low interest rates, low oil prices and tax cuts.

"Next year, we will certainly sell 1.5 million less" than this year's total, Jolissaint said. "Or more."

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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