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Today's Economic Indicator: January Auto Sales



February 03, 2009 – Comments (4)


To me, one of the most important barometers of what sort of shape the economy is in right now is sales of big ticket items like new vehicles.  Today automakers will publish their sales totals for January 2009.  A few days ago, the automotive Web site forecast that U.S. light vehicle sales for January were down 30% versus the same period a year ago and off 18% from the level reported in December (see article: Edmunds.Com Predicts January Sales Will Remain Flat, But Demand May Be Building.

I personally believe that the January sales were worse than that.  I'm looking for a drop in the mid-30% range at least.  The hardest hit will likely be luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz...and of course the mess that is Chrysler.  I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Chrysler's U.S. sales were down over 50% AGAIN this month.  Even traditional titans like Toyota likely saw soft sales in January. 

The only brand that seems to be immune to the massive slowdown in light vehicle sales thus far is Subaru (a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries and partially owned by Toyota - 16.7%).  Consumers seem to be flocking to the company, seeing its AWD vehicles as a tremendous value for the money.

It will be interesting to see exactly what January was like.  I plan on updating the comments section of this blog post throughout the day with manufacturers' press releases when I see them if I can find the time.


Who thankfully has no position in any automaker

4 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On February 03, 2009 at 11:44 AM, angusthermopylae (38.16) wrote:

The only car manufacturer I've ever owned is Ford (got out a long time ago).

I'm curious how their January sales numbers will match up with their visit to Congress last year--does for still look like it can make it without a bailout?  Will GM and Chrysler say "our bailout helped, but we need more" or will it be "crap...looks like we're done for?"

I think it'll be a task to separate the true condition from the self-fulfilling prophecy--GM and Chrysler said they were in trouble, and it sounds like a lot of people stopped buying there because of their statements.

Magic 8-Ball (tm) says that they all will suffer--and each company and analyst will try to justify their paycheck by putting a ton of spin on each number.  8-Ball also says that you'll likely hear the old "but it would have been worse without..." over and over.

For this one, I'd suggest looking at the report itself, and (initially) ignoring all the hype that will follow...

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#2) On February 03, 2009 at 12:06 PM, TMFDeej (97.76) wrote:

The headline just crossed: 

Ford January Auto Sales Down 44%, Much Worse Than Expected (Story Developing)

Looks like Deej is going to be right and the professional analysts at are going to be wrong.  We'll see.


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#3) On February 03, 2009 at 12:18 PM, angusthermopylae (38.16) wrote:

LOL--I wonder if the analysts at are suddenly worried that the company is going to announce "cutbacks"--mainly the jobs of these particular analysts..

..or will we here some more "How could we have known?!?"...

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#4) On February 03, 2009 at 4:32 PM, plpinc (< 20) wrote:

Did you overlook that Hyundai/Kia was UP 14% over Jan 08 and UP 2% over Dec 08?!  I love my little 2007 Kia.  High quality, low price and unmatched warrenty.  My little 1999 Subaru is still chugging along to at 110Kmiles

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