It’s obvious that Dan Akerson is not a long-time auto man. He made that very clear recently in an interview with Automotive News.
Asked about industry sales for next year, the General Motors CEO said he expects them to be “flattish” at best, and that’s only if the United States economy avoids infection from the European debt crisis.
“As we go into ‘12, we’re looking for a kind of repeat of ‘11,” Akerson said.
Dan, Dan. Didn’t they tell you that a CEO never talks about flat sales ahead, especially for a period following a year as bad as this one? He looks for 12.7 or 12.8 million this year, only about 10 percent better than last year’s puny 11.6 million.
Think back, GM watchers. Did you ever hear Donner or Roche or Gerstenberg or Murphy talk about flat sales in the year ahead? Those words weren’t in their vocabularies. Next year always was going to be bright and shiny. It didn’t always work out that way, but it sure gave the industry something to shoot for.
If Akerson is correct, it will be a long, long time before the industry returns to the norm of 16 million-plus light-vehicle sales it established in 1999-2007. This year’s deliveries will be 20 percent below 16 million.
Should Akerson be correct, next year will be the fifth year of the current auto depression. It started in 2008. Note that I said depression, not recession. When sales drop 35 percent, as they did from 2007 to 2009, and the downturn enters its fifth year, you have a depression, not a recession.
Since this is Chevrolet’s centennial year, it would have been nice if Chevy had won its annual sales skirmish with Ford. But it isn’t going to happen.
After 10 months, Ford was about 210,000 units ahead of Chevrolet, and its lead was growing. That is considerably ahead of last year when Ford’s lead was 147,000 at the end of October. In October this year, Ford dealers sold almost 30,000 more new vehicles than Chevrolet dealers.
Ford trucks are doing the job. Ford leads Chevy by about 332,000 on the truck side, overpowering Chevy’s edge of 122,000 in car sales.
Europeans move up
The European brands don’t get an awful lot of space in newspapers or magazines, but they are moving up the sales chart in a satisfying manner. There are a lot of them -- 20 brands -- and their sales range from about four a month for Maybach to nearly 28,000 a month for Volkswagen.
The bulk of the Europeans’ sales is supplied by the VW Group of America (Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley); BMW Group (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce), and Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz, Maybach, Smart). Their sales were up 17 percent for 10 months, and the three groups accounted for 85 percent of the European vehicles sold in this country.
Volkswagen was the leading European brand for 10 months with 263,487, an increase of 24 percent over last year and good for 27 percent of the European market.
On a percentage basis, Volvo outpointed VW slightly with a 10-month gain of 27 percent.
In addition to the nine brands in the three leading groups, the Europeans are represented by Jaguar, Land Rover, Porsche, Volvo, Fiat, Saab, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Lotus and Aston Martin.