DETROIT -- A summer of dizzying sales highs powered by discounts and incentives has added up to a potentially record low October for the Big 3.
Industry analysts forecast steep U.S. sales decreases for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group this month, and Edmunds.com predicts the Big 3's combined slice of the U.S. market will be an all-time low of about 53 percent.
While domestic automakers are reeling, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. and American Honda Motor Co. Inc. are expected to post gains this month. But Nissan North America Inc.'s sales are forecast to slip.
With four of the six largest automakers having rough months compared with October 2004, Edmunds.com says industry sales are likely to fall 9 percent to about 1.2 million units. Automakers report October sales on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The seasonally adjusted annual rate is estimated to be about 15.2 million units, which would be the most sluggish month since August 1998, according to Merrill Lynch. The firm predicts the full-year rate to be 17 million units.
Worst month for Ford
Analysts foresee Ford as having the worst month, with its sales dropping about 20 to 22 percent. In a note to investors, John Casesa, Merrill Lynch's managing director of global coordinator of automotive research, blames Ford's flagging light-truck sales for its slow October.
GM is expected to post a sales decline of 15 to 19 percent. Casesa pegs the automaker's inventory to still be about 11 percent below average for this time of the year.
Chrysler group sales are forecast to be off by 6 to 10 percent.
"The payback from the incentive-driven summer sales was delivered in October," said Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com, in a prepared statement. "Fewer new-model launches, combined with lower incentives spending by the manufacturers and the continuation of high gas prices, resulted in a dramatic decline in showroom traffic, particularly for the domestic brands."
Wary of Commander
Casesa noted that the Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger are performing well for their automakers but was wary of the Jeep Commander, which he says was launched into an "inhospitable" large-truck market.
Edmunds.com expects Honda's sales to spike 11 percent, which would be the month's best performance and says Toyota will post a modest increase of 4 percent.
Nissan could be in for a downturn this month. CEO Carlos Ghosn said at the Tokyo Motor Show this month that the automaker's sales were off 20 percent through the first two weeks of October. Edmunds.com forecasts a drop of 2 percent for the month.
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