Despite 'experts,' 2012 sales are still on track to 14 million
John K. Teahen Jr. is senior editor of Automotive News
It seems like every day we get a new set of sales projections for 2012. Usually, it's a case of one of the "experts" saying, "What I really meant was … ." Some of those folks change their projections as often as I change my socks.
Some recent changelings are Kelley Blue Book, Toyota Financial Services, Mazda North American Operations, TrueCar and LMC Automotive. Each thinks the gravy train has left the tracks.
Well, it didn't happen last month. August sales of new cars and light trucks were the highest for that month since 2007. It's the third month in a row that that has occurred.
Those forecasters may be right; predicting sales is a chancy way to make a living. But at the moment, 2012 sales are on track to reach 14 million -- perhaps 14.5 million -- this year.
Sometimes, I wonder if the "experts" are all that expert.
August brought sales of 1,285,292 new cars and light trucks, 20 percent more than August 2011 but 13 percent less than August 2007. Of course, 2007 was the industry's last 16 million year. This August was 11 percent better than July's disappointing performance.
Cars top trucks
Cars outsold trucks 655,862 to 629,430 in August. Cars were up a hearty 27 percent, twice as much as the 13 percent rise for trucks.
For eight months, the industry total was 9,711,238, which was 15 percent better than last year's 8,465,266.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate jumped to 14.53 million, the highest of the year.
Each of the Detroit 3 reported a double-digit volume gain in August. Chrysler Group, including Fiat, was up 14 percent; Ford Motor Co., 13 percent; and General Motors, 10 percent. Their gains amounted to 62,342 cars and trucks. Toyota Motor Sales, with a 46 percent gain, almost topped that all by itself. Its sales were up by 59,038 units.
To reach the coveted 14 million, sales must average 1.072 million a month. Not too much of a trick, considering that they have been well above that figure every month since January. Hitting 14.5 million would take 1.2 million a month. The industry topped that in March, May, June and August.
But don't forget those five naysayers.
In August, import-badged makes captured 54.8 percent of the U.S. market. I call them import-badged because more than half of them are made in the United States. The profits go home, but the workers' paychecks stay here.
Tough month for Detroit
The Detroit 3 fared better last August, snaring 48.5 percent of the U.S. market compared with 45.2 percent this year. The difference? Toyota and Honda. Their home plants are roaring this year after being on short rations a year ago because of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in March 2011.
The Toyota-Honda gains came out of the hearts and pocketbooks of each of the Detroit 3. GM lost 1.7 points of market share; Ford Motor lost 1 point, and Chrysler Group gave up five-tenths of a point.
Ford bested Toyota by only six-tenths of a market share point; a year ago, Ford's edge was 4.2 points.
GM's August share was 18.7 percent. Remember when the Justice Department had a special unit studying GM with the goal of breaking up the auto giant? It wasn't all that long ago.
You can reach John K. Teahen Jr. at email@example.com.