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GM falls 45 percent, Ford down 5 percent, Chrysler regains 5th place

by Bill Cawthon on

The hangover from the “Cash for Clunkers” program was especially painful at General Motors and Chrysler. GM sales plunged 45 percent, while Chrysler’s fell 42 percent. Ford, which is currently the strongest of the American brands, had a comparatively minor five percent deficit. Chrysler and GM were hampered not only by the dramatic decline in showroom traffic but by serious shortages of vehicles on dealer lots. The shortage of vehicles like the Caliber was especially acute; the dearth of Dodges meant just 654 were sold last month. There were only 258 sales of PT Cruisers. Similar stories unfolded with sales of the Jeep Compass and the Town & Country and Caravan. The Chrysler minivans came in behind both the Toyota Sienna, the best-seller for September, and the Honda Odyssey, which still holds the lead in year-to-date sales, followed by the Caravan, Town & Country and Sienna. Interestingly enough, the Chrysler-built Volkswagen Routan was the German automaker’s most improved model with sales up 140 percent.

Charger sales were comparatively strong; down just eight percent. Dodge sold more Chargers than all but four of General Motors’ car models. In fact, Dodge sold more Chargers than Buick, Cadillac, Saturn, Lincoln or Mercury sold cars. Dodge brand vehicles outsold every other American brand except Ford and Chevrolet and they were sixth among all automotive brands, trailing Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda and Nissan.

Chrysler sales were strong enough to lift it past Nissan into fifth place among the major automakers. In both monthly and year-to-date sales, Chrysler trails GM, Toyota, Ford and Honda, in that order.

Bloomberg News’ panel of analysts had a good month projecting sales of the Detroit automakers, but only as an average of their predictions. The average estimate was GM down 45 percent, Ford down five percent and Chrysler down 43 percent. Individually, the analysts had more mixed results. Jessica Caldwell, who replaced Jesse Toprak at Edmunds.com, had a small problem with her crystal ball; she predicted Chrysler sales would fall 51 percent, GM would see a 48 percent shortfall and Ford would be down 13 percent. Christopher Hopson of IHS Global Insight was the closest when it came to Chrysler, placing his bets on a 42 percent decline. Patrick Archambault of Goldman Sachs was also close with a forecast of a 45 percent fall.

The analysts were luckier with Ford: Joseph Amaturo of Buckingham Research and Himanshu Patel of JP Morgan Chase were right on the money and Rod Lache of Deutsche Bank was close, foreseeing a four percent deficit.

When it came to GM, the analysts were split with three forecasting smaller deficits and three predicting larger ones. Only Rod Lache of Deutsche Bank was close at 47 percent.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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