By on December 2, 2008

Street Insider reports that General Motors delivered 154,877 vehicles in November, down 41 percent compared with a year ago. That makes for some of the worst sales numbers in the US, leaving GM PR with nothing to get traction on despite aggressive Red Toe Tag Sale incentives which will continue through January 5. “In November we saw the continuation of the dramatic decline in volume for the industry. Every manufacturer is posting awful numbers and we are no exception,” says GM’s Mark LaNeve in what may be one of the biggest understatements we’ve heard in weeks. GM’s car sales were down 41 percent compared to last November, while trucks were down 44 percent. The only GM vehicle with positive sales growth compared to last November is the much-touted Malibu, which is up 31 percent. Ok, that’s not strictly true. The GMC C/T Series is up 64 percent, at 82 units compared to 50 last November. Needless to say these exceptions won’t save GM from the bleeding across every other model and brand. And, as our Ken Elias points out, the 862,000 models currently sitting on GM lots is “way out of whack relative to trailing sales.” Not good.

Chevy and Saturn were the best-performing brands, losing only 20.9 and 20 percent respectively. Still, with Cobalt down 53.6 percent, Impala down 43 percent, and Aura down 48 percent, these brands aren’t just losing blood, they’re leaking bone marrow. Caddy watched its cars drop by at least 38 percent (low-volume XLR) and as much as 67 percent (STS), while its trucks and utes were down by 26 to 37 percent. Buick’s best performer was the LaCrosse which shed only 19.9 percent, but the high-volume Lucerne was down 34.1 percent and the once-hot Enclave plummeted by 40.3 percent. Pontiac might have some of the worst news of the month, as the brand’s sales were down 53.4 percent since last year. The Vibe (down 14.2 percent) is the only Pontiac vehicle that isn’t at least flirting with the 50 percent drop mark. Meanwhile, Hummer sales are unsurprisingly down 63.9 percent while Saab is down 57.5 percent. Taken together, these numbers do not paint a pretty picture.

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24 Comments on “GM Sales Plummet Apace, Down 41 Percent In November...”


  • avatar
    hltguy

    Some quick math, GM sold 154,877 vehicles in November and they have about 7,000 dealers, that would equal each dealer selling approximately 22 new vehicles in the month, far less than one per day. (How many of the 154,877 were sold directly to fleet?) Looks like some dealers may only be selling one or two new GM vehicles per week.
    Looks like the Maytag repairman is not the only lonely person out there, lots of car salespeople are standing around

  • avatar

    Did you see their production schedule?
    Planned production for Q4 2008 plus Q1 2009 is only 3.4M worldwide. That’s worldwide production. It’s down dramatically in North America, Europe, Asia and South America, in other words everywhere.

  • avatar
    Bubba Gump

    I talked to my brother who works for a large western based GM dealer. His report was that even though sales were weak that financing is causing about 20% of the downturn at his place. He indicated that out of every 10 vehicles sold over the weekend that they were having to call back 3 or 4 of them on tuesday because the customers loan fell through on monday. If the banks arent going to finance cars no amount of toe tag’s is going to make a difference. The big ticket cars and trucks are the worst.

  • avatar
    TexN

    It will be interesting to see if any of our Congress critters challenge the assumptions of the Detroit boys during the hearings at the end of the week. I called “bullshit” a few weeks ago when Wagoner said that 4th quarter cash burn would be significantly smaller than the 3rd quarter was. My reasoning was based exactly on what we are now seeing: massive sales dropoffs due to overall economic issues, tightening credit, talk of bankruptcy, jittery consumers/investors, etc. Even pundits who expect the bailout to go through are speculating that it will only buy 6 months at most for GM & Chrysler. Why would anyone expect anything other than 40-50% sales drops for the next 6 months?

  • avatar
    racebeer

    Correction … trucks are down 39.4%, not 44% as reported here …. it was cars that were down 44.1%. Total GM deliveries by Marketing Division were down 41.3%.

  • avatar
    dean

    No matter how you crunch those numbers, they are seriously ugly.

    The fact that Cobalt sales have crapped the bed, even though it is dirt cheap and one of the more fuel efficient options, is a pretty damning indictment of what is wrong with GM.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Is the Malibu improvement a legitimate statistic? Or was there some fluke caused by, for example, change in model configuration or just starting up production that month last year?

  • avatar
    morbo

    “The fact that Cobalt sales have crapped the bed, even though it is dirt cheap and one of the more fuel efficient options, is a pretty damning indictment of what is wrong with GM”

    Not quite right. The fact that Cobalt sales have crapped the bed, even though it is dirt cheap and one of the more fuel efficient options, is a pretty damning indictment of what is right with Honda, Mazda, and Subaru, and what is at least OK at Toyota, Ford, and Nissan.

  • avatar
    AG

    Well yeah, who would buy a Cobalt when they could have a Civic? Or a Mazda3? Or a Focus for that matter?

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    Did I hear right that GM is asking for 18 Billion dollars from the Public Purse?

  • avatar
    NickR

    So, the Malibu is holding it’s own against rival Ford. But the Focus is handing the Cobalt it’s ass apparently. And what is up with the Impala…hasn’t that been their sales stalwart?

    Hurry GM, you might still get a few bucks for SAAB…maybe. Hummer? Pontiac? *opens dustbin of history*

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    IIRC last november was a poor one for GM. That would lend an even uglier cast to the numbers.

    I’ll join the dogpile on the Cobalt. Typically it gets 5-8 mpg less than a Civic or Corolla in road tests. About midsize 4 banger territory.
    Why bother.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    jkross22

    @hltguy:

    Good number crunching. I’m still wondering how in the hell many GM dealerships stay in business. How much does it cost to keep the lights on? If you’re selling 12 trucks/month, is that really enough to pay the bills?

  • avatar

    GM is still producing too much.
    In November they produced 240K vehicles in the US and Canada (plus vehicles imported from Mexico and other countries).
    They sold only 154K.
    The difference between production and sales gets added to inventory and must be a terrible burden on working capital of which they have too little already.
    For instance, in November they produced 19K Chevy Malibu, but sold only 9K.
    They produced 16K Chevy Cobalt, but sold only 6K.
    They produced 27K Chevy Impala, but sold only 13K.
    Etc, etc.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Holy SHIT!!! 862,000?… that’s a heck of a lotta cars!.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    jkross22 :
    December 2nd, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    @hltguy:

    Good number crunching. I’m still wondering how in the hell many GM dealerships stay in business. How much does it cost to keep the lights on? If you’re selling 12 trucks/month, is that really enough to pay the bills?

    Used car sales and service.

    In any case, the really bad number is this:

    852

    That’s the total number of vehicles Saab sold in the United States. 606 9-3s, 111 9-5s, and 135 9-7xs. That’s it. That’s all the new vehicles sold by every single Saab dealer last month in the entire country.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    So this is what a perfect storm looks like. It always amazed me that for years the Detroit three have been overproducing and fire saling unwanted cars and yet seemed to be able to set it up for another year. I thought, when do all of these foreign sales take there pound of flesh out of Detroit? The answer was the day the truck and large SUV sales cratered. This was the last profitable domain of the domestics, if financed all of the rest. These companies haven’t been true car companies for a long time (at least 15 years). It started in earnest when Ford brought out the highly successful explorer around 1990. They soon after dispatched the former number one seller taurus to obloivion. GM and Chrysler saw this and jumped on the SUV parade while making pickup trucks ever more luxurious. What a party $10,000 per vehicle profits for the chevy, ford, dodge brands and up to $20,000 profit for the cadillac and Lincoln SUVs. They even had a tax credit for the huge Suburbans and Expeditions for a while to allow small businesses to get a huge writeoff on these (work trucks). What a party, why should it ever end and who wants to build $15,000 mini cars? Well we have our answer, and it says that the three companies who totally failed at building sedans are now going to make them. They are going to make good, green, sedans for the American market. The problem is, they have to move out about a dozen companies who build exactly that and have taken over the market over a period of years. Who do you think will outlast who, the dozen or so foreign builders or the new (old) kids on the block who now want to build cars?

  • avatar
    law stud

    who will buy the greener sedans they come out with? I sure as well won’t. I know what happened during the last fuel crisis and the cars they created in a week. Poorly engineered POSs that fell apart. VEGA, X-Cars, etc. GM is the king of cutting corners and evolving things and taking poor chances.

    The R and D budget for 3 years is only going to be 2.9 billion between 2009 to 2012 according to what they told Congress. The Japs are spending nearly 10 billion this year on R&D. GM is clearly not in the same ball park in being able to compete.

    Unless gas drops to 0.99 and trucks come back big because banks once again start lending then GM might be able to make it.

    Who the hell will bet 25 billion that gas drops, GM makes good cars, cars that the public want, and they can get their customers into the cars because of financing. It’s a shitpile. A once big company that has been shedding jobs like crazy for the last decade. It’s just a Detroit car company now, there is no more big 3.

    The company fell into what big companies can do. They get lethargic and want to stay around by just producing what they have already and expect the customers to keep coming back. Competition is a bitch for GM.

  • avatar
    menno

    EJ San Fran said:

    “In November they produced 240K vehicles in the US and Canada (plus vehicles imported from Mexico and other countries).
    They sold only 154K.
    The difference between production and sales gets added to inventory and must be a terrible burden on working capital of which they have too little already.
    For instance, in November they produced 19K Chevy Malibu, but sold only 9K.
    They produced 16K Chevy Cobalt, but sold only 6K.
    They produced 27K Chevy Impala, but sold only 13K.”

    Wow. GM are NSFW’d, aren’t they?

    Even with bailout bucks, I don’t see how they can pare down production fast enough to even “cut their way to profitability” (which they were never going to do anyway. Didn’t work for Studebaker, didn’t work for AMC).

    What works is having a good, viable, long-term business plan which I can sum up for you all:

    If you are a car company, be a car company. Not a bank which tosses together cars as a side-line in order to make money on GMAC loans.

    Once you decide you have to be a car company, you have to realize what people’s real needs and wants are, and build the best car you can with those thoughts in mind.

    Then build it the best you can – using best practices, swallowing you pride and learning from others.

    Then your company must treat you customers and their customres (i.e. the dealers and the car buyers) as you would wish to be treated if you personally, the people in charge of GM, were the person with the blown intake manifold gasket.

    Then you must learn from your mistakes and actually improve your cars continually.

    I just described Toyota, Hyundai, Honda.

    Which is why they will survive the Great Dieoff (the new name for the coming year from hell / Greater Depression).

    Some are still calling it the Greater Depression.

    http://www.learcapital.com/marketcommentary/6809.html

  • avatar
    rcguy

    The writing is on the wall and GM executives can’t or won’t read it. They put their products out of fashion by focusing on “return on investment” instead of market trends.
    Employees in the plants are whipped to produce better quality at a lower price, but the products coming of the line still don’t measure up.
    Why? IMHO, the bean counters are running the show, and the real car people are told to cut back on paper clips.
    There has to be a change in top management, and in corporate culture or all the Gov’t loans in the world won’t help.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Stingray: “Holy SHIT!!! 862,000?… that’s a heck of a lotta cars!Correction: A heck of a lotta cars that no one wants to buy…

  • avatar
    50merc

    “They even had a tax credit for the huge Suburbans and Expeditions for a while to allow small businesses to get a huge writeoff on these (work trucks).”

    I’ve seen this before, so a clarification is in order. The tax deduction (not credit) was popular because it allowed the entire depreciation writeoff in the year of purchase. Otherwise, the deduction would have had to be spread over the depreciable life of the vehicle. And vehicles weren’t the only kind of asset eligible for accelerated depreciation, just the most publicized. Also, of course, SUV’s are evil.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    50merc I apologize for mislabeling what was still a for Detroit give away. These forty to sixty thousand dollar SUV’s are not evil per se. They just wouldn’t have naturally sold if the accelerated depreciation wouldn’t have taken thousands off of the sales price in the year sold. That other non automotive items were included in the tax breaks makes no difference to my argument. GM and Ford were able to book up to $20K profit per unit on vehicles (6000 lb+ SUV.s) that would not have otherwise been sold. Thus, they got an artificial injection of profits that allowed them to shirk their responsibility of making cars for the future for another couple of years. If my remarks are wrong, then why doesn’t anyone want to buy a $60K Cadillac SUV today? and Finally, why are their warmed over obsolete cars complete in many cases with push rod engines and 4 speed trannys still out there as 2009 models?

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Those seem to be some amazing blinders Detroit wears. Still comfortable after four decades.

    Friends ask me what I think of bailout and I just don’t know what to say. On one hand we want to keep people working and earning a paycheck but insights like those offered here on TTAC show that these companies are so fundamentally damaged – that is the leadership in that industry is so damaged that I don’t really think helping them with loans is going to encourage the changes they need to make to stay in business another 50 years.

    So we damage our gov’t to loan these folks a bunch of money and then they may still go broke and never pay back the loan.

    As crazy as some of the e-mails I have seen demanding the gov’t give the money to the little people of America – giving it to Detroit seems about as crazy.


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