By Chrissie Thompson, Automotive News
February sales for each of the top six US automakers plunged more than 37 percent in February -- the worst month since December 1981.
"We are in an automotive depression amid 'The Great Recession,'" Standard and Poor's analyst Efraim Levy said in a report. "Shell-shocked consumers fearful for their jobs, the value of their homes and stock market assets are wary of making the sizable discretionary purchases of new vehicles."
General Motors, which is staying afloat with government loans, had the biggest year-to-year decline among the biggest companies, 53.1 percent. Ford Motor Co. was next-worst at 49.5 percent, and Chrysler tumbled 44.0 percent below February 2008.
Toyota sales fell 39.8 percent, and Honda and Nissan sales were down more than 37 percent as the industry slid 41.3 percent.
Results for the six biggest automakers were worse than most analysts' forecasts. The industry total of 689 794 was the lowest of any month since December 1981 -- and the second-lowest since comprehensive light-vehicle monthly sales totals became available for comparison in 1975.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the total was 9.05 million, also the lowest since December 1981 and the second-lowest on record. Cars fell 38.6 percent, to 353 784, and light trucks were down 44.0 percent, to 336 010.
Monthly US sales haven't risen, year-over year, since October 2007, in stride with a 15-month recession. For three straight months, the year-over-year decline has exceeded 35 percent.
February's consumer confidence level fell to another historic low as continuing claims for unemployment benefits hit record highs and credit markets remained frozen.
The decline wasn't limited to the six companies. Volkswagen's VW and Audi brands fell 19.9 percent. Daimler AG slid 20.4 percent, and the Hyundai Group was down 0.7 percent.
Subaru, the only automaker to increase US sales last year, held that same distinction in February. It delivered 5 978 units of its Forester, more than doubling last February's sales of the crossover.
See more at www.autonews.com (a Crain publication).