U.S. Auto Sales: Decimated In Disastrous And Dismal December

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by toulour
Saturday, Jan 04, 2020 - 9:13

We have been covering the global automotive recession for the better part of 18 months now and, while a lot of our focus has been on the slowdown in China, the United States now appears to be spearheading the misery.

This revelation comes as a result of what can only be described as absolutely atrocious auto sales numbers for December, which were reported in scattered fashion, hitting the terminal in the appropriate red color, on Friday throughout the day. 

Fiat Chrysler sales for Q4 fell 2% despite "robust" demand for the company's Ram pickup trucks. GM deliveries fell 6% in the quarter and Toyota saw sales fall 6.1% in December, handily missing estimates for a 0.8% gain. 

And Toyota wasn't the only automaker that missed estimates in grand fashion: Honda was also expected to report a modest gain in sales, but posted an ugly 12% drop in sales for the quarter.

Expectations were lower for Nissan, who was expected to post a drop of 22.1% but missed even those pessimistic expectations by posting a monster 29.5% loss for the quarter. 

Ford is expected to post results on Monday. 

IBD offered some additional detail on the numbers behind the numbers: 

  • GM deliveries declined 6.3% to 735,909 units in Q4, with fleet sales accounting for 19.7% of the total. For all of 2019, GM deliveries fell 2.3% to 2,887,046 units. North American wholesale sales fell roughly 25% year over year in the quarter. GM cited the 40-day autoworkers' strike over labor contracts that brought factories to a halt. GM's newly launched heavy-duty full-size pickups saw sales fall 17% in Q4.
  • Fiat Chrysler reported record Q4 sales for the Ram truck brand, Jeep Wrangler SUV and Dodge Charger passenger car. The Ram brand also posted record full-year sales, amid the launch of the redesigned Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck.
  • For all of 2019, Honda's sales rose 0.2% to 1,608,170 vehicles. Honda saw declines of 11.3% in December for cars; 2.3% for trucks; 12.9% for the Honda division; and 3.8% for the luxury Acura division. Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles fell 31.4% for December but rose 17.2% for the full year.
  • Nissan auto sales crumbled 29.5% to 104,781 vehicles in December. For all of 2019, Nissan's sales declined 9.9% to 1,345,681 vehicles. In December, Nissan saw sales plunge 23.4% for cars; 32.9% for trucks; 28.4% in the Nissan division; and 37.8% in the luxury Infiniti division.

Look at the year-long 2019 numbers paints an ugly picture, as well.

GM's sales fell 2.3% in 2019, dented by the UAW strike that brought more than 30 U.S. factories to a halt toward the end of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Fiat's sales in the U.S. were down 1% for the year and Toyota's sales fell 2%. Nissan's sales fell a whopping 10%. 

Additionally, year end U.S. sales are expected by analysts to come in at a decrease of 1% to 2% for the year, totaling about 17 million sales. Industry forecasters are expecting a steeper drop, to a range of 16.5 million to 16.8 million vehicles. 

Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of Cox Automotive, says that record amount of non-housing debt, slowing retail spending and rising severe delinquencies and defaults are continuing concerns for the industry, according to CNBC. He stated: 

“Retail spending growth began to slow as we entered the fourth quarter. Collectively these trends suggest that the consumer may not be capable of single-handedly carrying the economy in 2020, which is why we are expecting another decline in new-vehicle sales.”