MEXICO CITY - For the first time in nearly three years, Mexico's vehicle sales have recorded a year-to-year monthly decline.
Wholesale deliveries in October dropped 11.5 percent from their October 1997 level. Car sales and light truck sales totaled 49,012. Both segments were off.
Mexico's economic turmoil has taken its toll. Finance plans, which had been driving the market, have vanished.
Still, 504,300 vehicles have been delivered in Mexico through October. That is a 38.6 percent increase over last year. Mexican wholesale activity closely matches retail sales.
The last month Mexican sales fell was January 1996, at the end of a yearlong collapse.
The 1998 market still appears likely to top 600,000 sales, a 40 percent increase over 1997. But that outlook assumes the return of incentives, which have included interest rates as low as zero percent for 18 months.
Forecasts have been shifting down throughout the year. Earlier this fall, predictions called for 650,000 sales.
'We thought we could sell 120,000 VWs, but now we expect just 100,000,' said Bernd Leissner, president of Volkswagen de Mexico, earlier this month.
VW sales and those of most other big automakers in Mexico fell in October. Chrysler was the only one to gain, with a 2.4 percent increase. The Neon continued to push Chrysler sales ahead, climbing 23.1 percent for the month.
Market leader General Motors registered the biggest loss for the month, with a 26.4 percent decrease. A 46.7 percent increase for the Chevy Joy/Swing small cars was not enough to keep GM ahead.
Ford suffered the second-largest drop, 10.7 percent. Nissan slipped 7.4 percent, and VW dropped 5.6 percent.