Domestic Car Sales Decline For Third Month As Hurricane Sandy Replacement Cycle Fades

Tyler Durden's picture

One of the hallmarks of the ongoing European economic depression has been the complete implosion in the continent's automotive sales (here and here) and as Reuters summarized last week, there is little hope of a rebound for a long, long time. Curiously, where Europe has seen complete devastation, the US has been surprisingly resilient, and even when factoring in for such traditional gimmicks as channel stuffing, performed most notoriously by GM, which in March had the second highest amount of cars parked on dealer lots in its post-bankruptcy history, car sales have been rather brisk which in turn has allowed the US to report manufacturing numbers which, until the recent PMI and ISM data, were better than expected. One does, wonder, however, how much of a factor for this has been the forward demand-pull impact of Hurricane Sandy in late 2012, when as a result of tens of thousands of cars being totaled in tri-state area flooding, consumers scrambled to car lots to buy new autos. Well, we may have found the reason for the recent disappointing performance in both the Chicago PMI and the Manufacturing ISM - the positive effect from Sandy is finally fading, as today's domestic car sales show, which posted a surprising decline in March, especially in non-Trucks which dipped to the lowest since October 2013, and the first miss in total light vehicle sales SAAR since October.

The chart below shows total domestic car and truck auto sales in the past year in the US.

And the steep decline in just car sales:

A long-term chart showing Car sales...

...And truck sales:

Furthermore, as Stone McCarty observes, the biggest hit to total auto sales was experienced by light cars, whose SAAR dipped to 5.354 million the lowest since October and well below expectations, with demand for greater fuel-consuming light trucks still going strong, and validating that the recent surge in end-demand has been primarily one of Sandy-driven replacement.

Once again, the mix of vehicle sales seems to be geared toward more light truck sales this month. The long-run trend indicates that demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars has increased relative to demand for light trucks because of rising gasoline prices. However, it appears that light truck sales have been boosted in the short-term since Superstorm Sandy. Perhaps the recovery process has sparked interest in vehicles with higher load capacity. Also, many truck enthusiasts will be satisfied simply in receiving the large fuel-economy benefits by replacing their older, less fuel-efficient vehicles

Finally, those curious where the funding for car purchases comes from should wonder no more: cheap credit all the way:

The January Federal Reserve Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices reported that, "auto loans had strengthened, on balance, while demand for other types of loans was about unchanged... within consumer lending, a moderate fraction of domestic banks reported an easing of standards on auto loans, on net, while standards on other types of consumer loans were about unchanged... a moderate fraction of respondents continued to experience stronger demand for auto loans, on net, while demand for credit card loans was reportedly unchanged... responses from domestic banks indicated that they had again eased standards on auto loans over the past three months".

In short, the credit-fueled, Sandy replacement cycle ramp is ending, and has already manifested itself in far weaker than expected PMI and ISM numbers. The good news for Q1 GDP is that the bulk of the front-loaded sales have already taken place and the result will likely be a stronger than realistic PCE component to Q1 GDP, which as most sellside desks have revised, will be in the 3% range, with all threats of a sequester-induced collapse in demand appearing quite meaningless in retrospect.

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McMolotov's picture

Thank God tornado season's coming up.

DJ Happy Ending's picture

I'd like to see a stat showing how many people bought new cars without financing.

ncdirtdigger's picture




Hope that meets your requirements.

hedgeless_horseman's picture






There has never been a better time
for your local government
to buy a new GM fleet!

Hurry now to pass a bond issue
that floats your local GM dealer's floor plan

before inventories increase even more!



2013 Chevy Camaro ZL-1

580 HP
12 CTY / 19 HWY

Nicely equipped pursuit vehicle for only


Hurry, before the bad guys get away!



Easy credit available through Ally Bank!


disabledvet's picture

"cars are to men what women are to shoes." simply put "you can never have too many." do NOT start shorting "car sales." (nor shoe sales either.) these items are made to surprise to the upside...."we need to find better" to get "down on this love thing." and of course we have many: gasoline consumption, garbage collection, postal mail volumes, electricity rates--ALL have collapsed and have ZERO historic precedent for doing so. car sales collapse all the time..."until they go through the roof."

Papasmurf's picture

I'm long spiked heels.

pine_marten's picture

I'm long black tipped 3006

johngaltfla's picture

It's the hurricane that caused a decline.

It's the flooding that caused the decline.

It's ZH talking down the economy that caused the decline.

It's SNOW that caused the decline.

It's another NY Congressman taking Weiner pics that caused the decline.

It's actual verification of credit worthiness that caused the financing companies to go "oh shit, everyone is now subprime who wants a new car!"

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

I would be curious to know if HYUNDAI sales are fading...  Hyundai is NOT fading in Peru, they are moving the metal down there.  But, GM and Ford not so much...

TeamDepends's picture

Just wait until GM rolls out the New New Camaro....

johngaltfla's picture

Hyundai sales go to shit when Seoul gets nuked. Short short dictators!!!!!

NoWayJose's picture

I thought the lot on my local Chevy dealer looked pretty full.  They are even parking cars on the grass now!

Papasmurf's picture

Around here, they are hiding cars all over the place.  The pipeline is suffed.

Yen Cross's picture

      I'm confused?

   Reuters seems to change it's reporting faster than the wind changes direction.

BeagleOne's picture

Broken windows anyone...

virgilcaine's picture

Honda parks their unsold behind a warehouse near me.. Rows of Piliots and those Ugly Ridgelines?

outofideas's picture

Oddly in my area Ridgelines are hard to find and command a premium. Go figure.

Whoa Dammit's picture

With lower salaries combined with rising food, health care, gasoline and housing costs, no one in the shrinking middle class can afford to buy a new car.

Next up Vehicle Vouchers to go along with EBT & Section 8 so that GM can have someone to distribute their inventory to.

Sudden Debt's picture

Sandy also explains the record sales of Ferrari... makes sense...

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

wha..., to GTFO of town in a hurry?

PontifexMaximus's picture

We do not need cars to be sold, we need money to be printed, pomos to be done and bad eco news to be announced, that is what markets keep moving

bnbdnb's picture

Exactly. Those Anonymous guys should be DDOS all the financial news feeds if they want results.

Smegley Wanxalot's picture

I keep kinda wanting to buy a new car (cash, no credit) just to change it up but then I think "why should I feed these assholes and pay more taxes to the govt" and drive merrily on.  Current vehicle is closing in on 200k miles, runs like new and still looks great inside and out, so fuck the car industry and the economy.

ebworthen's picture

Local GM dealer has an absolutely stuffed lot; every now and then a Mom and Pop will drive off in a Malibu or the City Government a new Fancy Truck to drive around the sign holders.

The Channel Stuffing is unabated!

Moar inventory!


Lendo's picture

IIRC 68% of all new vehicles sold in the United States Q4 2012 were sold with a subprime loan.

I see Ally Financial is underwriting Chrysler vehicles now.  I wonder what Ally will emerge as when they file for BK again.

Seasmoke's picture

and i just heard today on radio, that Ford and Chrysler had their best month of March in 5 years ........ WTF ???????

Major Major Major's picture

Could not help but post this headline from the Los Angeles Times

"Truck sales get a lift from housing rebound"

If you say it enough times, does it make it true?

JustObserving's picture

The Fed prints enough money to buy 50 million cars a year.  Who cares about the real economy when it is dwarfed by the virtual one?  The Fed can buy cars, computers and phones for everyone with conjured up money.

BTW, Bitcoin hit $116.  Silver is languishing at $27.27.  How about a silver coin for every American citizen, Mr Bernank?

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Some background information on this.

Bailout recipient General Motors leads the world in car sales thanks in part to subprime auto lending that may cause a fiscal calamity, financial and auto industry observers fear.

“You have the government trying to sell the bailout and this recovery and they’ve allowed, encouraged GM to revive itself off the back of subprime lending,” said Ed Niedermeyer, auto industry consultant.

GM Financial (GMF), the company’s in-house financing arm, reported that delinquencies grew by about $200 million to $933 million in 2012, according to GM’s annual SEC filing.

Delinquent contracts at GM now represent 8.5 percent of all auto loans—higher than delinquencies at Ford, Toyota, and Honda combined.

All four companies have in-house financing arms that lend money to purchasers. GM’s structure differs from its competitors because it focuses primarily on subprime borrowers, while customers with higher credit scores opt for financing from Ally Bank.

“When you talk about our delinquency rate, GM Financial’s is higher than the industry average of captive lenders because 85 percent of our portfolio is subprime, whereas the portfolios of other captive lenders are predominantly prime,” GM Financial spokeswoman Chrissy Heinke said. “So, it’s not an apples to apples comparison.”

GM’s prime borrowers fall into delinquency at the industry average. Ally reported 1.6 percent in delinquencies in the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2012, its most recently available SEC filing.

General Motors is doubling down on the subprime strategy. Only 4 percent of GMF borrowers had credit scores above 660 in 2012, compared to nearly 8 percent in 2011.

Additionally, GMF now represents more than 7 percent of the entire subprime market and its number of subprime borrowers may be even higher, according to company executives.

“GM Financial percentage of GM’s U.S. consumer subprime financing and leasing was 20 percenton the [4th] quarter,” GM CFO Daniel Ammann said in a Feb. 14 conference call.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly blamed subprime lending practices in the housing industry for the 2008 crash. 

“We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand them,” he told a Kansas audience in 2011. “Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all. … It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility all across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis.”

The administration created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to address the perceived lack of enforcement. The CFPB serves as a watchdog on complicated financial instruments such as subprime mortgages.

However, subprime auto loans are exempted from CFPB oversight thanks to opposition from industry interests.

“They didn’t want to be subject to the same regulations as banks,” one industry source said. “The administration and Democrats in Congress were more than willing to hand over the keys. They knew what a stalled auto sales market would mean for how people viewed the bailouts.”

Obama made GM’s sales growth a centerpiece of his campaign during stops in Ohio and Michigan. The car company used flexible financing, pricing incentives, and other discounts to drive up volume, selling more than 9 million vehicles last year.

“Car sales have been the one economic indicator that the Obama administration has repeatedly pointed to as sign of recovery; we’re creating a bubble in order to make a government pet project look viable,” Niedermeyer said. “GM is using subprime to move cars out doors but it won’t last forever, and eventually the music is going to stop and we’re going to be back where we found them before the bailout.”

The growth in car sales has not bolstered the company’s standing in domestic sales. GM’s market share fell to 17.5 percent, down from 18.8 percent when it launched its initial public offering in 2010.

General Motors still owed $21.6 billion on its $49.5 billion bailout as of Jan. 30.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Looking to buy a new car, truck or crossover? You may find it more difficult to stretch the household budget than you expected, according to a new study that finds median-income families in only one major U.S. city actually can afford the typical new vehicle.

 The typical new vehicle is now more expensive than ever, averaging $30,500 in 2012, according to data, and heading up again as makers curb the incentives that helped make their products more affordable during the recession when they were desperate for sales.

According to the 2013 Car Affordability Study by, only in Washington could the typical household swing the payments, the median income there running $86,680 a year. At the other extreme, Tampa, Fla., was at the bottom of the 25 large cities included in the study, with a median household income of $43,832.

The study looked at a variety of household expenses, such as food and housing, and when it comes to purchasing a new vehicle, it considered more than just the basic purchase price, down payment and monthly note, factoring in such essentials as taxes and insurance.

Bottom line? A buyer in the capital can purchase a car with a sticker price of $31,940, slightly more than the new vehicle average for the 2013 model year and about what it would cost for a mid-range Ford Fusion sedan or a stripped-down BMW X1 crossover. The buyer in Tampa? They'll just barely cover the cost of a basic Kia Rio, with $14,516 to spend.

"If you live in New York City or San Francisco, you're probably going to have to pay a lot for housing, but you don't have to pay a lot for a car," said Mike Sante, the managing editor of, a financial decision-making website.

Affordability has been a matter of growing concern for the auto industry in recent years as prices have continued to move upward. Even the most basic of today's cars are generally loaded with features that were once found on high-line models a few decades back - if they were available at all - such as air conditioning, power windows, airbags and electronic stability control, as well as digital infotainment systems. They also have to meet ever tougher federal safety, emissions and mileage standards that have added thousands to the typical price tag....


While the typical new vehicle will likely nudge up this year, editor Sante stressed that car costs are one of the most controllable parts of a household's budget. "You're better off driving something more affordable and saving or investing the difference."

If the typical new car costs $30,550, with an average monthly payment of $550, the five cities most able to meet - or come close - are:

1) Washington

Average Household Income: $86,680

Affordable Purchase Price: $31,940

Maximum monthly payment: $628

2) San Francisco

Average Household Income: $71,975

Affordable Purchase Price: $26,786

Maximum monthly payment: $537

3) Boston

Average Household Income: $69.455

Affordable Purchase Price: $26,025

Maximum monthly payment: $507

4) Baltimore

Average Household Income: $65,463

Affordable Purchase Price: $24,079

Maximum monthly payment: $468

5) Minneapolis

Average Household Income: $63,352

Affordable Purchase Price: $24,042

Maximum monthly payment: $470

At the other end of the scale, those five cities least able to handle a car payment are:

21) Phoenix

Average Household Income: $50,058

Affordable Purchase Price: $17,243

Maximum monthly payment: $348

22) San Antonio

Average Household Income: $48,699

Affordable Purchase Price: $17,137

Maximum monthly payment: $334

23) Detroit

Average Household Income: $48,968

Affordable Purchase Price: $17,093

Maximum monthly payment: $332

24) Miami

Average Household Income: $45,407

Affordable Purchase Price: $15,188

Maximum monthly payment: $295

25) Tampa

Average Household Income: $43,832

Affordable Purchase Price: $14,516

Maximum monthly payment: $282


waterhorse's picture

Great information.  I've had $500+ car payments before and they really cramp my style - even with a $120,000 income.  Just not worth it.

tornado_watch's picture

No problem... just take a new 84 month loan

MFLTucson's picture

What a fuckin joke!  Hurricane is the problem again but, no worries, the stock market will go up another 100 points tomorropw!

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Experian Automotive: Historically high loan terms and low interest rates kept monthly auto payments down in Q4 2012

Schaumburg, Ill., March 05, 2013 — Experian Automotive today released that average loan terms for a new vehicle in Q4 2012 jumped to an all-time high of 65 months, up from 63 months in Q4 2011. Terms for used vehicles stayed flat at 60 months. Findings from the Q4 State of the Automotive Finance Market analysis showed that the average interest rate for new and used vehicle loans dropped in Q4, and average monthly payments dropped versus the same time period in Q4 2011.

“Overall, Q4 2012 was a very favorable time for consumers to buy a new or used vehicle in terms of overall monthly payments,” said Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian Automotive. “Lower interest rates and longer loan terms made it easier for consumers to finance a vehicle while keeping their payments affordable. This, combined with the fact that more vehicle loans went to consumers with credit outside of prime, portends a vital and healthy automotive market.”

The report also showed that the average loan amount for a new vehicle was $26,691 in Q4 2012, up $272 from Q4 2011, while the average used vehicle loan was $17,629 in Q4 2012, up $239 from Q4 2011.

However, while consumers are taking out larger loans, lower interest rates and longer loan terms for new vehicles helped bring down the average monthly payments. For example, the average interest rate for a new vehicle loan in Q4 2012 dropped to 4.36 percent, from 4.52 percent in Q4 2011, while the average interest rate for a used vehicle loan dropped to 8.48 percent, from 8.67 percent in Q4 2011. Additionally, the average monthly payment for a new vehicle dropped from $468 in Q4 2011 to $460 in Q4 2012.

More consumers also were able to obtain financing in Q4, as average credit scores for both new and used vehicles dropped. For new vehicle loans, the average consumer credit score was 755 in Q4 2012, down six points from Q4 2011. For used vehicle loans, the average consumer credit score dropped to 665 in Q4 2012, down five points from Q4 2011.
In other findings from the Q4 2012 report:
• Automotive loans for new vehicles with terms from 73 to 84 months increased by 19.4 percent over Q4 2011
• New lease share of new financing increased to 24.79 percent, up from 10.45 percent in Q4 2011
• The total subprime market for all new vehicle financing increased by 9.7 percent to 24.77 percent, up from 22.59 percent in Q4 2011
• The total subprime market for all used vehicle financing increased by 3.4 percent to 55.4 percent, up from 53.58 percent in Q4 2011
• Buy Here/Pay Here (BHPH) organizations and credit unions showed the strongest market share growth of 4.3 percent and 3.9 percent for overall automotive loans
• Banks have the highest market share of automotive loans at 41.2 percent

Experian Automotive’s quarterly credit trend analysis features market reporting data and analysis from its AutoCount® Risk Report, which analyzes automotive lending markets based on a uniform measurement of credit quality that segments markets by geography, credit score and vehicle registrations, among other factors. It also incorporates data from the Experian–Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports, which provide topical, quarterly analysis; peer benchmarking options; and commentary on key issues facing the financial services industry.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Some more articles, whether you believe their spin is another story but it is a source for some raw numbers.

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Looks like a combo of subprimes and longer term/lower monthly payment car loan debt enslavement going on. And the other question is leasing considered a new car sale?

Almost Solvent's picture

Renting a vehicle is for those who can't afford to purchase. Never could understand why anyone would rent a car for 2-5 years, then pay moar money to turn it back in. 


Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

If you own a business it is tax write off. It goes on the expense sheet as a business purchase also gas receipts become a tax write off at the same time since you can claim them as business expenses. If you want a new car every 3 years or so without having to pay full price along with owning a business leasing is the way to go, higher monthly payment and all. Those payments when the accounting is done right are pretty much tax free.

yogibear's picture

Good for another 100 points up. 

LOL, it's becoming quite regular. A wee bit of downturn and like magic buying comes in.

Trade as such in this Federal Reserve rigged market. 

taketheredpill's picture

By "Load Capacity" do they mean interior space?  It's tough to live in a small car.

dolph9's picture

What people seem to forget is that cars require fuel and maintenance.  You are not just paying for the car.

Cars are slowly but surely bankrupting people, just like houses.  Believe me, in due time you are going to have cars at firesale prices.

Unless you're well off it's not worth buying a new car.  Better to lease, buy used, or go without.

HardwoodAg's picture

'non-Trucks which dipped to the lowest since October 2013'


Step slowly away from the time warp continuum, or give us some hard numbers

Kreditanstalt's picture

I can't believe that all these ridiculous "economic growth" stats are predicated on post-storm car sales in three insignificant states of one country.

Moreover, where's the money to buy these things coming from?

americanspirit's picture

Anybody buying a used car better invest on a CarFax report after pulling up the carpet in the trunk and smelling for mildew. After Katrina tens of thousands of previously-submerged cars were sold to suckers. Don't be one.

Papasmurf's picture

That isn't mildew, that's the smell of bank owned.

dunce's picture

Despite all the talk about gas mileage, the two top sellers were Ford and the chevy pickups by a long way. They do get good MPG for trucks but no where near the figures on passenger cars. Some are real work trucks but most are just men's choices.

pine_marten's picture

Man, I need a hummer........