DETROIT -- Auto sales at General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC plunged in October, dragging the U.S. industry to a 32 percent decline and its weakest performance in a quarter century.
GM plummeted 45.1 percent from a year earlier. Ford sold 132,248 cars and trucks, down 32 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. outsold Ford on its way to its 23 percent drop. Daimler AG and American Honda were down more than 24 percent, while Nissan, Hyundai and Chrysler were all down at least 31 percent.
If you adjust for population growth, this is probably the worst industry sales month in the post-WWII era, Mark LaNeve, GMs vice president for sales and marketing, said on a conference call. Until the credit markets open up and consumer confidence improves, the entire U.S. economy, and any industry like autos that relies on financing, will suffer.
Octobers performance pushed the industrys slide for the year to 14.6 percent. U.S. sales totaled 11.6 million vehicles after 10 months, down almost 2 million units from year-earlier levels.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate was 10.9 million, the lowest since March 1983, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. For the second time in as many months, industry sales fell below 1 million. It was the U.S. markets 12th-straight monthly decline and the second straight of more than 25 percent.
No hot segments
When the industry is hovering around 11 million, there are no hot segments or hot products, Ford sales analyst George Pipas said today. These are very challenging times.
U.S. auto sales averaged 16.8 million this decade through 2007.
Fords U.S. brands -- Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury -- fell 29.2 percent. Its Volvo unit plunged 52.1 percent. Fords comparisons factor in 5,267 Jaguars and Land Rovers from October 2007; the U.K. brands are now owned by Indias Tata Motors Ltd.
Lowest since March 1983
Of the four biggest automakers in the United States, only two have reported monthly sales increases this year: Toyota in April and GM in January.
To spur sales, GM said today it is starting its annual Red Tag sale early this year. The event, which typically begins just before Thanksgiving weekend, will start tomorrow and run until Jan. 5. Under the plan, GM will offer as much as $7,250 in customer cash on some vehicles. Dealers also said the automaker has launched a pair of direct-mail incentive programs.
Mini, Audi post gains
BMWs Mini, up 56 percent, and Volkswagens Audi, which advanced less than a percent, were among the few makes to gain for the month. The VW brand dropped 7.9 percent.
This is the toughest economy weve seen in a long time, Mark Barnes, COO of VW Group of America, said in a statement.
Porsche, Isuzu, and Suzuki fell more than 45 percent.
Jim Tidwell Ford in Atlanta sold 132 new and used vehicles in October, said Blake Dobbs, new-car sales manager. At the start of the year, the monthly average was about 250.
A 31 percent decline in average U.S. gasoline prices during the month helped trucks, he said. But one new Ford vehicle, the Flex, has been a disappointment, said Dobbs.
We ordered a bunch to help Ford out, but the price point is too high, he said. We only sold two in October.
Toyotas decline was paced by its Lexus unit, down 35 percent. The Toyota brand retained its position as the nations best-selling brand, ahead of Ford and Chevrolet.
Mark Templin, general manager of Lexus, said tomorrows presidential election may help boost new-car purchases.
One issue affecting sales is uncertainty -- Wall Street, housing foreclosures, credit and the political area, he said. Anything that takes uncertainty out of the market will be helpful.
Richard Truett, Amy Wilson, Jamie LaReau, and Jesse Snyder contributed to this report