Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Auto Sales: Ray of Sunshine?

by Bill McBride on 4/01/2009 08:25:00 PM

In Looking for the Sun, I suggested there might be three areas to look for "rays of sunshine in a very dark season": housing starts, new home sales, and auto sales.

Just like for housing starts and new home sales, it is way too early to call a bottom for auto sales - but it does look like vehicle sales increased in March on a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) basis.

Vehicle Sales Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows the historical vehicle sales from the BEA (blue) and an estimate for March (light vehicle sales of 9.86 million SAAR from AutoData Corp).

Note: this graph includes a small number of heavy vehicle sales to compare to the BEA.

From the WSJ: Auto Makers See a Ray of Hope

The annualized sales pace ... came in at 9.86 million vehicles, well below the 16 million or more the industry typically logged a few years ago, but up from February's pace of 9.12 million.

"I believe we are in a bottoming process for the industry," Bob Carter, a group vice president at Toyota Motor Corp., said in a conference call. ...

Michael DiGiovanni, the top sales analyst at General Motors Corp., said he expects a "very, very gradual pickup" in vehicle sales in the second quarter. He cited "the first signs of brightening" in the market. ...
Even if this is the bottom for auto sales (way too early to call), the pickup will probably be very sluggish - especially considering the grim unemployment news and continuing financial crisis.