November Sales Abysmal Even for Honda, Toyota, VW

December 2, 2008
On the heels of the New York Times' pronouncement today that, yes, we really are in a recession (how about a nearly 9 percent S&P 500 decline in just 6.5 hours yesterday?), many automakers shared the sobering news of their November '08 sales. Even tight ships like Honda, Toyota, and VW--who should theoretically be profiting in a market skewing toward smaller, more efficient vehicles like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, and VW Jetta TDI--are feeling considerable pain.

For November 2008, versus that month one year ago, American Honda sales dropped 31.6 percent. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.'s sales slid 33.8 percent, and VW of America, Inc. fared slightly better with a sales decrease of 19.2 percent.

Said Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo regarding U.S. auto demand in an interview Friday with Reuters: "There's a bottom somewhere. I'd like to know where it is."

Automotive News yesterday commented that analysts predict GM's November sales declines to range from 28 to 42 percent. They say Ford's November sales are slated to drop 33 percent, and Chrysler 40 percent.

VW and its brand Audi are mounting a worldwide sales assault, and it seems a sound decision based upon their highly diversified lineup and sales channels around the world. Despite sharp declines in U.S. sales, VW's global sales are up considerably, and the company is even building a new plant in Tennessee that will produce a mid-size sedan for the U.S. marketplace. But if the news just keeps getting worse--and the predictions continue turning out to be kinder than market realities--will even VW have to curtail plans for expansion?--Colin Mathews

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