January's US auto sales figures gave no hope that demand is yet bottoming out. Volumes were down 41% versus 2008. As the chart shows, the main pain was felt by GM and Chrysler, who saw sales down 49% and 55% respectively. A key factor in the downturn for both companies was a collapse in fleet sales - which were down 80%.
The only bright spot, if a 30% year-on-year decline can be considered "bright", is that Ford suggested "retail demand appears to have stabilised", around this level. But as GM noted, the overall market is now down 6m in terms of vehicle sales versus 2007. A real recovery in this important end-market for chemicals seems as far off as ever.