Handicapping 2012 sales at the halfway mark ....
John K. Teahen Jr. is senior editor of Automotive News
So how many new cars and light trucks will be sold in the United States this year? Try this number: 14,486,247.
That is pretty much in line with predictions trumpeted by the Wall Street "experts." The main difference is that many of them make a new prediction every month. They started at about 14 million in January and have been inching upward ever since. I don't play that game. I make one estimate and stick with it. And for 2012, it's 14,486,247.
That is 13 percent higher than last year's actual tally of 12,778,847. A most acceptable increase. The automotive depression/recession may not be quite over, but it is certainly on the wane.
My estimate is based on a simple mathematical formula. In the past 10 years (2002-11) first-half sales have averaged 7,445,256, and full-year sales have averaged 14,819,613. Thus, the first half has accounted for 50.2 percent of full-year sales.
The first six months of this year yielded 7,272,096 new-vehicle deliveries. Applying the 50.2 percent to that figure results in 14,486,247 for the year.
I hope my 2012 guess is as good as last year's. A year ago I predicted full-year sales of 12.6 million. The actual count was 12.8 million. I missed by 1.6 percent. I'll settle for that.
This year's estimate calls for the first half and second half to deliver about the same number of sales. The split (about 58,000) is the lowest since 2002. In 2008, first-half sales topped the second half by 1.6 million.
The race that wasn't
This year, after six months, Ford led Chevrolet by 136,759 units in their annual tussle for sales supremacy in the United States. Toyota was 58,819 behind Chevrolet.
It's not too early to cede the 2012 crown to Ford. It has beaten Chevy every month this year, usually by 20,000 sales or more. There is no way Chevy is going to recover from a deficit like that.
The best-selling brands from other nations are Toyota (Japan), Hyundai (Korea), Volkswagen (Germany), Volvo (Sweden), Mini (Great Britain) and Fiat (Italy).
Cadillac's comeback trail
Cadillac is still selling more trucks than cars, but the numbers are getting closer. In June: 5,900 cars and 6,224 trucks.
For months, Cadillac dealers had only the CTS series to sell against the onslaught of models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti.
Now, the XTS sedan is in showrooms to help out, but it is too new to have had any real effect on sales numbers – 753 were sold in June. Cadillac dealers are awaiting more product, and boy, oh boy, can they ever use it!
Pour on the coal
Pour on the advertising, you makers and sellers of alternative-power vehicles. You have some mighty desirable products, but you aren't going to sell very many of them until people know a lot more about them.
Take June, for example. Car sales totaled 669,305, but only 23,369 of them had alternative power. And 19,150 of those 23,369 were Toyota Prius models. So alternative power had 3.5 percent of the car market and Prius had 82 percent of the alternative power market.
The Chevrolet Volt has a nifty ad in which Volt owners brag about how seldom they visit the corner filling station. Great, but much more is needed.
How about getting alternative-powered cars into high school driver training? If the corporate average fuel economy standard goes to 54.5 mpg as the proposal now reads, we'll all be driving them.
Maybe "Drive and Learn" days sponsored by dealers at high schools or at shopping malls where kids hang out. You won't sell them any cars, but they'll talk about them at the dinner table, and maybe their folks will take a look.
But whatever way, get the word out. You can't sell any product unless people know what you're selling.
You may e-mail John K. Teahen Jr. at email@example.com
You can reach John K. Teahen Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.