Show some mercy for the company sales analyst
John K. Teahen Jr. is senior editor of Automotive News.
Pity the poor auto sales analyst. After January’s results came in, his boss began bugging him for a full-year forecast to facilitate manufacturing plans and what not.
And this is impossible. Anyone who has dealt with sales knows that you cannot make an accurate predication based on the month’s results. The best you can hope for is a SWAG – a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.
With that in mind, let’s examine the January figures one last time as we await February sales results to come next week.
The industry’s dealers delivered 913,284 new cars and light trucks in January. That was 11 percent better than last year and was the highest for January since the auto depression began in 2008.
But it was 16 percent below the 1,091,443 of 2007, which is the year by which current sales should be judged. That was the last of nine consecutive years of 16 million sales or more. And 16 million now is the standard for annual sales.
Maybe 14 million
So what is the outlook for 2012? A few hardy souls have predicted 14 million, and that seems attainable. It would be 9.6 percent better than 2011, and recent years’ sales have shown increases of 10-11 percent. It would put the industry nicely on its way back to 16 million.
The seasonably adjusted annual rate for January was 14.2 million, but that is not a firm full-year prediction. The SAAR is likely to change every month, depending upon that month’s market.
For the Detroit 3, January was a mixed month, or perhaps a mixed-up month would be a better term. General Motors was down 6 percent; Ford Motor was up 7 percent and the Chrysler Group was up an astonishing 44 percent.
Sooner or later, Chrysler’s year-to-year comparison will reflect the strong sales months of late 2011 and the percentage gains will be reduced.
GM share smashed
GM was brutalized in the market share department. It sold 10,953 fewer vehicles than it did a year ago, and the overall market advanced 93,398. Not good. GM lost 3.4 points of market share with the dip pretty evenly divided among its four makes. GM’s share was 18.4 percent in January.
Ford Motor’s sales were up but not as much as the market. The result? Lower market share. Ford was off six-tenths of a point to 14.9 percent. Chrysler’s sales surge brought it an extra 2.5 points of market share at 11.1 percent. The Detroit 3 had only 44.2 percent of their home market in January. A year ago, it was 45.9.
Japan’s Big Two are on the march, having recovered from the earthquake and tsunami of last March. Sales of Toyota Motor Sales climbed 8 percent in January, and sales of American Honda jumped 9 percent.
At the end of January, Toyota sales were about 15,000 behind Chevrolet and 23,000 behind Ford. Can it catch its American rivals?
You can reach John K. Teahen Jr. at email@example.com.