With a 32.3 percent decline in sales, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. in September turned in one of the worst performances in its 50-year history in the United States. Toyota sold 144,260 vehicles last month, down from 213,042 in September 2007.
American Honda saw its September sales decline 24.0 percent over last year, while General Motors fell 15.6 percent.
In a conference call with journalists this afternoon, Toyota officials said their September sales were hurt by low consumer confidence and a general downturn in floor traffic, even though Toyota and Lexus dealer should not have felt much direct effect from the credit crisis.
Toyotas credit rating is so good, our dealers have good access to credit and leasing, said Don Esmond, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Toyota and Toyota Financial Services have AAA credit ratings, according to Fitch Ratings, much higher than the Detroit 3 and their captive finance companies.
Nevertheless, floor traffic dropped sharply for most Toyota and Lexus dealers at the end of September as Wall Street faced its worst crisis in decades and stock markets plunged.
The last 10 days are typically the best (of the month). We saw it declining to extremely low levels the last couple of days, said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager, Toyota Division.
Esmond said luxury-car customers seemed to be particularly affected by the news about the credit crunch.
It certainly put the brakes on consumers, especially luxury. They take a look at their 401(k)s and we had folks calling up and asking for deposits back. Its because they lacked confidence, he said in the conference call.
Toyota said its results were the worst since it posted a 32 percent decline in its daily selling rate in June 1987.
Honda results down
Honda's September sales totaled 86,629, a result Honda officials blame on jittery consumers.
This month was an incredibly volatile month for Wall Street, Dick Colliver, Hondas executive vice president for sales, said in a statement. Obviously, no one is immune to market shifts as dramatic as we are seeing.
GMs 15.6 percent decline for September easily outperformed most of the industry.
Because GM's decline was less than most other automakers, GM posted its best monthly market share of the year at 27 percent. Still, the sales numbers were ugly.
Saturn, GM's best-performing division, saw a 10 percent decline over last year. For the month, GM delivered 284,300 vehicles, down from 337,640 last year.