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US auto market enters the New Normal

Chemical companies, Consumer demand, Economic growth
By Paul Hodges on 07-Dec-2010

US autos Dec10.pngUS auto sales have slowed again. We seem certain to end 2010 at the bottom end of last year’s forecasts for demand, which ranged between 11.5m – 12.5m. This seems the main conclusion from analysing November’s sales figures.

The blog has developed the new presentation above, showing sales by month since 2005, to assist comparison between years, given the strong seasonal bias to sales. Plus, of course, the sharp decline in Q4 2008, and the subsequent stimulus programmes, have greatly distorted normal year-on-year comparisons.

Two key conclusions can be drawn:

• Sales have stabilised since Q4 2008, but there has been no real recovery. Between 2005-7, only January ever saw monthly sales below 1.1m. But since 2009, only August 2009’s $3bn ‘cash for clunkers’ took them above this level.
• 2010 (orange line) has seen better volumes overall compared to 2009 (light blue). But 2008 (purple) marked a clear dividing line: H1 was in the 2005-7 sales pattern, but H2 began the new pattern seen since then.

Overall, total sales in 2010 will be ~11.5m. This will clearly be better than 2009’s 10.4m. But 2009 was the worst year for US auto sales since 1982.

Overall, it means the value of chemical sales into this critical market (using the ACC’s estimate of $2973/auto) will have been only $34bn, versus the $50bn seen between 2005-7. It seems the New Normal has arrived in the US auto market.