US auto sales enter the “new normal”

autosNov09.jpgThe blog is changing its US auto sales chart, now that a year has passed since volumes collapsed last October. Year-on-year % changes become meaningless as a result.

Instead, it will now show monthly volumes, on a total US basis (blue line) and for the major producers (dotted lines). Key highlights this month are:

• The impact of the stimulus programme has now disappeared. Total US sales were 673k vs 1007k in August.
• Ford, GM and Toyota maintained the same volumes as in October 2008, but Chrysler was down 30%.
• Looking back 2 years to October 2007, total sales were down 30%. Toyota and Ford were down c25%: GM and Chrysler were down c50%.

US autos are a critical market for chemicals. Between 1995 – 2007, over 15 million were sold each year. Last month’s annualised sales rate was just 10.5 million. This implies a total market worth only $29bn, versus over $40bn in 2007. This change is one indicator of the ‘new normal’ that the blog expects for the next few years, as Western consumers spend less and rebuild their savings.

In these circumstances, chemical companies with the best strategy and execution ability will be relative winners, like Ford and Toyota. Those who do not adapt well risk following the fate of GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts. Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.

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