Sometimes you get what you deserve

So U.S. light-vehicle sales softened in June, limping home short of even dampened expectations earlier this week. The SAAR of 11.4 million was even lower than the May SAAR nobody liked and the worst sales rate since February 2010.

So auto sales are crashing?

Nope. Automakers got what they earned. No more. No less.

Let’s review.

After the Japan earthquake in March, production got slammed. Toyota and Honda virtually ran out of product, and others got pinched. With tight inventories, everybody cut incentives. June transaction prices jumped above $30,000. Consumers got the word: No deals now; better to wait until fall.

The question isn’t “Where did the buyers go?” It should be “How did we sell that many?”

Seriously, with popular models sold out, spiffs gone, dealers not dealing and out-the-door prices rising, what exactly is compelling buyers to showrooms?

Especially when buyers know that if they wait a month or two, somebody will dump a big ol’ fat sweetener into the pot (I’m looking at you, Toyota).

So I’m not taking June’s 11.4 million SAAR as a storm signal. I see it as reassurance of strong underlying retail demand.

And I don’t think manufacturers and dealers are particularly worried either. When margins get jacked up and many customers buy anyhow, riding out an inventory crunch with hefty per-vehicle profits is not a terrible way to go.

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