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Economy in Brief

Vacant Auto Showrooms; U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Lowest Since 1983
by Tom Moeller November 4, 2008

Auto showrooms were notably quiet last month as U.S. sales of light vehicles fell to 10.56 million units (AR). The figure was the lowest level since February, 1983 according to the Autodata Corporation and Ward's Automotive News (Seasonal adjustment of the figures is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The 15.5% m/m decline in October sales pulled them more than one-third below the same month's level of last year. Sales for the year so far have averaged a 13.76M annual selling rate, down 15.0% from the first ten months of last year. The level of October vehicle sales was quite a bit weaker than Consensus expectations for sales of 12.0M.

Sales of domestically made light vehicles fell nearly 20% m/m to 7.65M units (-36.7% y/y). The decline came on top of their 8.3% drop during September and year-to-date, sales were down 17.0% from the first ten months of last year. Domestically made light truck sales suffered further from higher gasoline prices and they fell 22.0% (-42.5% y/y). Truck sales this year were 23.2% lower than during the first ten months of 2007. Sales of U.S. made cars declined a less severe 15.2% from September. As drivers continued to shift purchases to relatively fuel efficient vehicles, car sales were down 8.2% versus the first ten months of last year.

Sales of imported light vehicles were not immune to the developing recession in the U.S. Last month they fell 6.1% (-26.5% y/y) to 2.91M units on top of their 10.5% decline during September. The latest was the lowest level since October of 2002.Sales of imported autos actually rose m/m. The 0.3% rise to 1.95M units left them off just 3.7% from the first ten months of last year, but the latest was their lowest sales rate since January 2006. Year-to-date, sales were down 4.0% from the first ten months of 2007.Sales of imported light truck sales were not, however, immune to the effect from higher gasoline prices and they fell 14.4% m/m (-35.5% y/y). Sales were down 17.5% from the first ten months of last year.

Import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market recovered their loss of the prior two months and rose to 27.5%. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the U.S. and do not include vehicles with the nameplate of a foreign manufacturer produced within the U.S.)

Who really made your car? from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is available here.

Economy in lower gear through 2008 also from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here.

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) October September Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total 10.56 12.50 -34.2% 16.17 16.54 16.96
  Autos 5.55 6.19 -26.1 7.58 7.77 7.65
    Domestic 3.60 4.25 -28.5 5.07 5.31 5.40
    Imported 1.95 1.94 -21.1 2.51 2.45 2.25
  Light Trucks 5.01 6.31 -41.3 8.60 8.78 9.32
    Domestic 4.05 5.19 -42.5 7.12 7.42 8.12
    Imported 0.96 1.12 -35.5 1.48 1.37 1.20
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