DETROIT - Automakers reported mixed U.S. sales results for November on Monday, with some new or more fuel-efficient models performing well despite consumer malaise over high gas prices and the weak economy.
But even with rising sales of small cars and crossovers, the industry is predicting things will get worse in 2008. General Motors Corp. said Monday it is cutting scheduled first-quarter production by 11 percent, while Ford Motor Co. said it would cut scheduled production by 7 percent. Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, George Pipas, said the automaker predicts sales will be at their slowest pace in a decade in the first half of 2008.
Shares of automakers fell. GM dropped $1.22, or 4 percent, to $28.61 in trading Monday, and Ford shares declined 26 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $7.25. Toyota shares fell $1.53, or 1.4 percent, to $110.92. Shares of Nissan declined 23 cents, or 1 percent, to $22.67, and Honda shares dropped 92 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $33.49.
November sales fell 2 percent industrywide in November, according to Autodata Corp. Car sales were up 6 percent but sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles fell 7 percent.
GM, the biggest automaker by U.S. sales, said its November sales dropped 11 percent, hurt by falling demand for trucks as well as cuts in sales to low-profit rental car fleets, while Chrysler LLC said sales fell 2 percent. Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. both reported flat sales for the month. Honda Motor Co.’s sales were up 5 percent while Nissan Motor Co.’s sales rose 6 percent.
“Rising fuel prices and sliding home values delivered a one-two punch this month,” Jim Lentz, president of Toyota’s U.S. sales arm, said in a statement. “But the industry’s not down for the count. Demand for fresh, more fuel-efficient products continues to show strength.”
GM’s November truck sales fell 15 percent, a casualty of the slowing pace of new home construction, while car sales declined 4 percent. GM said it also cut sales to low-margin rental fleets by 29 percent compared with last November. GM’s sales were down 6 percent for the first 11 months of the year. Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of North American sales, service and marketing, said GM wasn’t competitive enough on its incentive spending for 2008 model year pickup trucks. He said the company wants to remain disciplined about incentives but could ramp up spending. Edmunds.com, the automotive information site, said
GM spent an average of $3,136 per vehicle on incentives in November, lower than Ford and Chrysler but above its Asian rivals.
Ford’s November results ended a yearlong string of losses. Every month of this year, Ford’s sales compared badly to 2006, when it was still selling thousands of its old Taurus sedans to rental fleets. But Oct. 31 marked one year since the end of production of that sedan.
Ford’s top U.S. sales analyst, George Pipas, said the automaker is on track to cut rental-fleet sales by 143,000 in 2007, or more than 30 percent. Ford cut rental-fleet sales by 6 percent in November and plans to continue cutting in 2008, Pipas said. Sales to more profitable government and commercial fleets were up 25 percent for the month.
Ford said its car sales fell 2 percent but truck sales rose 2 percent, largely on the strength of the Ford Escape small sport utility vehicle and Ford Edge crossover. Sales of the newly redesigned Ford Focus jumped 18 percent. Ford’s sales dropped 12 percent for the first 11 months of the year.
Toyota continued its drive to overtake Ford this year as the No. 2 automaker by sales, outselling Ford by nearly 15,000 vehicles. Toyota’s sales were flat for the month compared with last November, with a 4 percent increase in car sales — including a 109 percent jump for the hybrid Prius — offset by a 5 percent drop in sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Toyota’s sales increased 4 percent for the year.
Chrysler’s car sales shot up 41 percent, led by the new Sebring convertible as well as the Dodge Charger and Avenger. Those sedans helped lift Dodge’s car sales by 75 percent for the month, Chrysler said. But Chrysler’s truck sales were down 13 percent, and the company’s sales were off 3 percent for the year.