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US Light Duty Vehicle Sales Drop 14% in October; Full-Size SUV Sales Down 50%

Of the Big 6, only Honda and Toyota managed an absolute sales increase in October 05.

Combined actual sales of all light duty vehicles in the US in October dropped 14% from the prior year, from 1,334,487 units to 1,146,397 units.

Of the Big Six, GM and Ford suffered the most, with year-on-year decreases of more than 25% each. Only Toyota and Honda came through unscathed for the month, each eking out a small increase (on an actual basis, not just on the basis of the daily sales rate.)

Oct-Oct Change in Full-Size SUV Sales
Company % Change
GM -52.1%
Ford -54.9%
Chrysler -32.5%
Toyota -42.6%
Nissan -22.8%
Isuzu -22.4%

Combined sales of full-size SUVs from all automakers tumbled some 50% year-on-year, from a total of 160,552 in October 2004 to 79,746 in October 2005. For the first ten months of the year, even with the buying giddiness induced by the employee-discounts programs earlier in the summer, sales of full-size SUVs have dropped 19.1% from the same period in 2004.

Total car sales for the month dropped 3% from the year before, while total light truck sales dropped 22%. Again, all comparisons are on actual unit sales, not on the average daily sales rate.

Moodys cut GM’s debt deeper into junk territory by lowering the long-term rating B1 from Ba2 based on its uncertainty about the company’s ability to restructure and recover. “The outlook is negative.”

Moodys is not particularly optimistic about the ability of GM’s new full-size SUVs (earlier post) to help the company turn the corner.

The GM downgrade reflects greater uncertainty as to GM’s ability to implement a comprehensive restructuring program, stem eroding market share, rebuild North American profitability, and achieve positive free cash flow quickly enough to meet the financial metrics previously defined by Moody’s for maintenance of its Ba2 rating.

The ongoing erosion of GM’s competitive position and market share is evident in the company’s significant third quarter operating loss, which contributed to $6.6 billion of cash consumption for the nine months ended September 30th. The company anticipates that the scheduled launch of its new T900 trucks and SUVs will provide opportunity for improved market share and financial performance. However, in an environment where consumer preferences are shifting toward more fuel efficient vehicles, the market acceptance of this new line of vehicles is less certain, and may not enable the company to fully recover the considerable investment made to develop, produce and launch the project.

That’s not to say that GM didn’t have some successes in the month. Small sport utility vehicle deliveries in October rose 29% with the addition of the Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Torrent to the category. A 17% sales increase for the new Saturn Vue also contributed to the positive sales results in the small utility category.

The H3, the new mid-size HUMMER, racked up 4,461 units in October, setting records for the division. HUMMER sales were up 129% compared to year-ago levels, largely based on the success of the smaller (relatively) H3.

Pontiac G6 sales continue to build with October deliveries 135% greater than year-ago levels. But overall, car sales for GM were down 15% in October from the year before, and truck sales were down 33%.

As a counterpoint, GM also announced that global sales of GM Daewoo vehicles jumped 41% this October from last year, rising to 112,631. That marks a monthly sales record for the Korea-based automaker for the second consecutive month.

Although Ford was hammered by its own 31% drop in truck sales (including sales of the F-Series, which dropped 31.7% October to October, it performed better in the car segment, with sales declining only 11%.

October saw the arrival of Ford’s new mid-size sedans to the showrooms, all of which performed better than expected (Ford Fusion: 4,078; Mercury Milan: 1,336; Lincoln Zephyr: 1,204).

Chrysler, by comparison, had a relatively good month, although Chrysler executives were “disappointed.” Monthly sales of the Chrysler 300 exceeded 10,000 units for the 17th month since its introduction, PT Cruiser sales increased 66%, Jeep sales increased 8%, Charger sales topped 30,000 units since its introduction, and the Dodge Stratus set an October sales record.

Sales of the Jeep Liberty Diesel CRD reached a total of 7,560 units.

Toyota, on the other hand, had its best October ever. Car sales rose 8.5%, although truck sales dropped 7.6%. Prius sales in October (9,939) representing 9.7% of all Toyota car sales. Toyota’s total hybrid sales (14,173) represent 8.2% of all light duty vehicle sales in October, up almost a full percentage point from September results.

Honda also had a relatively good month, with strong sales of its new Ridgeline pickup and the newly redesigned Civic. Ridgeline posted its best month ever in October, with a record 4,974 units, while Civic continued to make gains, with sales increasing 14% over last October.

Overall, Honda car sales increased 3.4% year-on-year, while truck sales dropped 3.5%.

While there is definite movement away from the largest, most fuel-inefficient vehicles in the US (despite some spikes such as the H3) there is not, however, a widespread movement to the most fuel-efficient. Not yet.



It is kind of a sad affair. I like Ford and GM for their vehicle designs. As in not the mechanics, but the look of their vehicles.

I really hope they survive in this new market, because seeying the iconic gear being thrown away is very sad. Maybe they can keep the chasis and retrofit hybrid stuff. It can't be difficult. Change the firewall shape and drivetrain to accomodate a hybrid form factor, and replace the disk break assemblies and wheel bearing bits with a regenerative breaking assembly.

As for the weight of the damn things, well not all occasions merit stop and start. Long distance travel will benefit greatly from a large momentum that opposes decelleration at every pothole.

If only they could retrofit smart Honda like parts(if not directly Honda parts) it might just work out.
A Ford F350 beast with all the chrome running on Honda's V8 hybrid (If you remember Honda said they would break their golden rule of never exceeding 6 and make an 8 in the future)

I mean a V8 can exist in a 3.5l form factor. and coupled with a supercharger can be good for 9-10l/100 or 200 Kw and 400 Nm while still producing a V8 note. All the Euro emission stuff could be applied on the exhaust piece of piss.

One thing I will say in the long term with regards to buying big cars, is people should go through an applicaiton process providing proof that they need such a car. I think this would reduce any new unnecessary purchase of large vehicles. On the other side of the coin, I'll be damned if I go offroad in the forrest with a Prius 2. :)


Handa has announced that they have change their plans on V8. So no V8 for you.


A sad fact:
The most fuel efficient vehicle sold by GM in the US is built by Toyota. It get 30/36mpg. Anybody care to guess what it is?
And this is how Toyota can survive a 42% hit in SUVs yet still sell more cars over last year.


Pontiac Vibe!


Another equally sad fact-
The most fuel efficient vehicle sold by GM (apparerntly by accident) is my 03 Saab 93 turbodiesel. 34/44. Maybe it's time to abandon the "renaissance center"?

Harvey D

People are reacting in the right direction to higher gas price, and that's good news. Let's hope that they (we) will keep it up and keep buying more and more effcient vehicles.

Just imaging what a variable progressive pollution tax to keep the price for regular gas and diesel fuel at $1 (US) a liter or about $3.87 per american gallon in 2005 US dollars would do.

In the long run, a higher gas/diesel price (derived from crude OIL) of between $1 and $2 US a liter may be enough to reduce gas/diesel consumption by 50% or more over a 10 year period. No special costly restrictive laws, farm or hybrid subsidies would be required. No more OIL wars, huge federal budget deficits or huge external trade deficits and a free 30% to 50% reduction in air pollution .

This unique solution is so simple that the government (and OIL lobbies) will not do it or let it happen.


Nor would most Americans be willing to bite the bullet...


For the record, a heavier vehicle is never a better thing in terms of fuel economy.(Response to the first post.) Rolling resistance is a function of vehicle mass and tire design, so nice try justifying an overweight SUV for highway use. There is no telling whether or not gas prices will come back down, as the price is largely affected by lack of refining capacity (which many people seem to overlook.) I hope fuel prices continue to rise, and rapidly. But let's not count our chickens here...


I guess I ought to add a ton or two to my Prius. No doubt that would come in handy for all those alleged potholes. Please!!!! No wonder we're doomed.


"Another equally sad fact-
The most fuel efficient vehicle sold by GM (apparerntly by accident) is my 03 Saab 93 turbodiesel. 34/44. Maybe it's time to abandon the "renaissance center"?"
You have a Saab diesel in America?


Why is it that the UAW and the German unions haven't hurt Daimler Chrysler?


All of their cars are secretly manufactured in Mali and Guatemala >:) It does seem odd that only GM seems to be having this problem. Probably stems from the fact that the force is not strong with GM's labor negotiators. After all, GM's nickname used to be "Generous Motors".


In responce to t's and Dan's winge about the tanks, I would welcome you to try and come down to outback Australia in a Prius. Not everyone lives in a city. The rolling resistence calculations apply to smooth all contact roads.
Once on gravel the larger surface area and diameter of the tire and vehicle weight is required to keep contact with the road. And on uneven often jaded roads the vibrations caused by a light chassis will result in loss of traction and dissipation of energy hence decelleration. It means that on unneven roads that pull the car in each direction, it takes a bigger car less effort to recover the speed lost incrementally.
Having regenrative breaking in each wheel will also have the effect of being able to drive each wheel at slightly differnet rpm depending on the road surface, so this helps the smoothing of the energy loss further.

Notice I am not opposed to advanced enginge design, or hybrid technology. Just providing an example where weight may be advantageous.



You can keep your outback; the problem with pollution and emissions is a result of cities and dense population. So you’re right, in specific environments, specific solutions are required.

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