Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda reported U.S. sales drops of more than 30 percent in November as a staggering U.S. economy dragged industrywide demand to the lowest level in 26 years.
Every automaker posted a decline as sales fell 36.7 percent from year-earlier levels. Ford Motor Co. slid for a 12th consecutive month. GM plunged more than 40 percent for the second straight month. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. was down for the 11th time in the past year, and American Honda Motor Co.s fall was its steepest for 2008.
The seasonally adjusted sales total of 10.3 million was the lowest since October 1982, when the U.S. economy last contracted as severely as it is now. The industrys sales total of 747,544 was the lowest monthly figure in at least two decades.
The economy continues to weaken, and auto sales reflect this reality, said Jim Farley, Fords marketing chief, in a statement.
Auto executives said the market may soften further at the start of next year before improving. As a result, Ford slashed its 2009 North American first-quarter production plan by 37.9 percent from year-earlier levels, and GM announced a 32 percent cut.
The results reinforced the magnitude of the crisis outlined in the plans that Ford, GM and Chrysler LLC submitted to Congress today in hopes of receiving $25 billion in government rescue loans.
In its plan, Ford said it may break even or post a profit in 2011, ending a streak of losses that began in 2006.
In May, Ford abandoned a goal of making money next year as soaring fuel prices and a weak housing market sapped sales of profitable pickups and SUVs. The company said today it will seek $9 billion in loans but would only access them as a safeguard if market conditions worsen.
Fords November decline was 32.6 percent. GM said sales fell 41.3 percent. Chrysler was down 47 percent, the sharpest monthly decline for any volume automaker this year. Its fleet sales decreased 63 percent, and retail volume was off 36 percent.
This year will go down as unlike any other year in the industry, Chrysler co-President Jim Press said in a statement. In this environment, we need to evaluate sales based on month-to-month trends."
Chrysler said its November sales were 10 percent lower than Octobers; the industry sales total slid 10.8 percent.
Among other automakers, Toyota was down 33.9 percent, Honda off 31.6 percent, and Nissan North America Inc. down 42.2 percent. BMW recorded a 26.8 percent drop, and Volkswagen AG a 21.5 percent decline.
Daimler AG remained one of two automakers that have gained sales this year, despite a 29.9 percent slide last month. The other is Subaru. Each is up 1.2 percent after 11 months.
Ford sees improvement in 2011
The Ford brands narrowest decline in November was posted by the F series. Sales of the pickup dropped 18.6 percent, a fall likely tempered by the introduction of the re-engineered 2009 F-150.
Several Ford crossovers continued to struggle. The new Flex accounted for 2,203 sales, well below early forecasts calling for annual sales of 75,000 to 100,000. The Edge plummeted 59.7 percent.
At the start of the year, Ford had projected U.S. sales would total 15.7 million units this year. In October, sales came in at a 10.9 million rate, the lowest in 25 years.
A 2008 decline triggered by record fuel prices has steepened as consumer confidence plunged to near-record lows in the wake of a global credit-market collapse.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, the nations business cycle arbiter, said yesterday that the economy slipped into recession in December 2007. The current recession, which many economists expect to persist through the middle of next year, is already the third-longest since the Great Depression, behind 16-month slumps in 1973-75 and 1981-82.
Impact of cheap fuel
In November, sales of every Toyota model except the Sequoia SUV declined.
Earl Stewart, who owns a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla., sold 100 fewer new vehicles than the 350 he delivered a year earlier. He attributes the decrease to the crash of South Floridas housing market and concerns about financial markets.
Plunging gasoline prices contributed to the Sequoias 52 percent rise in nationwide sales and a drop in small cars such as the Prius hybrid, Stewart said. Stewart sold 57 Priuses in November, down from 67 in October.
He is discounting his Priuses by $1,200 on the base model and $2,000 on the most-expensive versions.
Amy Wilson, Bradford Wernle and Reuters contributed to this report