Upon receipt of a multi-billion dollar loan from the Canadian government, General Motors signed a “Vitality Commitment”, essentially a covenant in the loan agreement between GM and Canada’s government, which guaranteed that a certain amount of GM’s North American production would remain in Canada. That number is widely reported as being 16 percent, while page F-69 of GM’s IPO filings outlines that the covenant is valid until GM repays its loan commitments or until December 31, 2016, whichever comes later.
While Oshawa has widely regarded as one of GM’s best plants in terms of producing high-quality vehicles, the future of GM’s Oshawa plant is looking increasingly bleak.
AlixPartners, the consulting firm that led GM’s reorganization efforts, has put the perennial optimism of auto industry analysts on notice, introducing its 2011 Automotive Outlook by arguing
The AlixPartners 2011 Automotive Outlook finds that while automakers and suppliers have seen profits bounce back handsomely – North American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) posted $12.5 billion in 2010 profit on a net margin of 4.6% and North American suppliers reaped $8.2 billion on a net margin of 4.3% – no one should be tempted into thinking that things are now back to “normal,” or at least the normal defined by the consumer-incentive-induced sales levels of the past. In sync with its past annual auto studies, AlixPartners continues to predict that U.S. auto sales will climb slower, and to a lower peak, than many others are predicting. Specifically, the firm estimates U.S. auto sales will reach just 12.7 million units this year and only 13.6 million in 2012.
This is a tough moment for us: on the one hand, pessimistic economic forecasts don’t make anybody happy… on the other hand, the AlixPartner outlook is a significant validation of TTAC’s longtime bearishness. So rather than either moping or self-congratulating, let’s just take a look at why AlixPartners is so gloomy about the near-term outlook.
Based on stronger than expected early indications, J.D. Power agrees with Edmunds and also predicts a strong January. Based on 11 days of sales, J.D. Power thinks 2011 will be a much better year. Power up-revised its forecast for total light-vehicle sales in 2011 to 13.0 million units (from 12.8 million units). (Read More…)
Sales numbers for the US market in July should drop today, and based on an early analyst survey, the market’s only recovered to a 12m SAAR at best. Estimates aside though, it’s beginning to look more and more like the US market for new cars is approaching a “new normal.” How so? Automotive News [sub]‘s Jesse Snyder figures it’s
Because discipline is breaking out all over– at manufacturers, suppliers and dealerships.
Even Snyder’s headline captures the mood of cautious realism that’s suddenly taken hold of the auto industry: though the market appears to have moved towards 12m annual units in July, Snyder’s analysis is headlined Life at 11 million U.S. sales.
If you’re hoping the US market is in the midst of an upswing, it’s time to start adjusting expectations. Ford’s Mark Fields says the market has “flat-lined” since Q3 of last year, telling BusinessWeek
The consumer is feeling a bit better, but not enough to go out and go back to the old ways of spending. It gives us pause because of the tight labor market and the overall situation in the credit markets
Edmunds has released its forecast for June, and though it shows sales up consistently from May 2009′s miserable numbers, there seems no question but that June’s sales will be lower than May’s. Edmunds sees an 11.2m unit SAAR for June, down from 11.6m last month. We’ll wait to see the actual June numbers before we officially end all hope of a strong recovery, but it’s starting to look more and more like 2009 was closer to “the new normal” than anyone wants to think.
We’re right on the verge of having 12 million in vehicle sales
UAW boss Ron Gettelfinger waxes optimistic in a recent speech at Wayne State University [via The Freep]. “Not so fast,” says Automotive News [sub]‘s delightfully cranky senior editor, John K. Teahen Jr., in a piece appropriately titled 12 million sales this year? Don’t hold your breath.
Ford analyst George Pipas reckons the recession is over; the U.S. economy is on its way to recovery. New car sales will, uh, stay the same. “I think that we won’t fall backward from October. How much November might advance from the October level it is too early to say . . . The fourth quarter will be stronger from an auto sales standpoint than a pre-clunkers level.” Translation: the U.S. new car market is bumping along at the bottom. Lest we forget, Pipas’ “pre-clunkers level” promised land was already significantly down from pre-crash volumes. Anyway, Pipas admits that Ford 2010 sales gains will be “modest” thanks to . . . wait for it . . . the perception gap. “[Unemployment] is a drag on consumer psychology. The recession may be over and the recovery may have begun, but for many, many consumers it may not feel like it’s over even 12 months from now.” The Detroit News reports that Pipas also predicts $4 a gallon gas by next summer, cementing the consumer shift towards smaller vehicles. What’s more, “Consumers in the future will be more careful about living within their means.” And if not, even better.
Prepare yourself for an increasing number of „good news“ along the following lines:
„October U.S. auto sales should be down about 6 percent from a year ago, marking the first single-digit monthly decline since May 2008, industry forecasting firm J.D. Power and Associates said on Friday.” Glad tidings, brought to you by Reuters.
Times must be really bad when single digit declines are feted as an improvement.
In reality, things stay as bad as they have been all year. In September 2008, the bottom fell out of the light vehicle market. From now on out, monthly sales will be compared to hell.
Automotive News [sub] brings glad tidings for auto execs drunk on Clunkers: “September’s light-vehicle sales rate will fall to 8.8 million units, consumer auto site Edmunds.com said. That would be the lowest rate in nearly 28 years, tying the worst demand on record.” Well, I did predict an 8m seasonally-adjusted annual sales (SAAR) rate. But did they listen? Noooooo. “They” had to spend $3 billion of taxpayers’ money on a cash infusion that did nothing—zip—to improve the industry’s long term well being. Or even longer. In fact, what’s the bet that the news (which hits for real on October 1) will trigger MORE federal spending on the ailing American automakers? You ain’t seen nothing yet. “Many people regard February as the darkest month of the recession, but even then the SAAR was higher, at 9.1 million units,” Edmunds.com senior statistician Zhenwei Zhou said in a statement. Expect to hear more apocalyptic pronouncements at an MSM outlet near you soon.
In January, China’s auto sales for the first time in history exceeded America’s, making China the world’s largest auto market for the month. As we said, sooner than later, China is bound to outclass the US of A solidly. Xu Changming, director of China’s economic consultative center under the State Information Center, thinks that it is quite possible that China will overtake the United States as the World No.1 car market for all of 2009: “Chinese auto sales are expected to grow 4 percent to 5 percent from 9.38 million units sold last year, more than the estimated 9 million unit sales in the U.S. this year.”
“But this figure is not something we should feel proud of since the U.S. was just plunged into an economic recession,” Xu warns according to Gasgoo. “Once the recession ends, America can retake the sales crown by selling 16 million–17 million vehicles annually.” So even if China takes the crown this year, they might lose it, and then “China still needs at least four to five years to eventually catch up with the U.S. in the auto sales total,” said Xu. And he has reason for caution . . .
Or so goes the logic of Brent Snavely and friends over at the Detroit Free Press. Sales down 37.1 percent? The lowest seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR) since 1982? No way is it going to get worse before it gets better! “This is not real. This is artificially low,” says Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com, who goes on to warn that “the industry might not recover without some sort of external stimulus.” Not here, not now! And yet in the midst of all this turmoil, a strained and unconvincing optimism abounds. Well, at the Freep anyway . . .
Never has the term “Red China” been more appropriate than in the last month. The U.S. is staring into China’s taillights. In January, the unthinkable happened. China dethroned the United States as the world’s largest car market. Not for the year. For one month only—so far. Even the biggest optimists (or pessimists, depending how you look at it) didn’t expect (fear) that China would outsell the U.S. before 2015.
The story unraveled during GM’s monthly sales call on Monday. Michael DiGiovanni, GM’s executive director of global market and industry analysis, dropped the remark that an estimated 790,000 vehicles were sold in China in January. Total U.S. sales in January were about 668,000, DiGiovanni estimated. Automotive News [sub] thinks Di Giovanni is an optimist. According to their tally, 656,881 vehicles were sold in January. DiGiovanni’s Chinese number was even news to China, where official counts are not yet available.
“This is the first time in history that China has passed the U.S. in monthly sales,” DiGiovanni said. “We are estimating that China is going to come in at 10.7 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in January. The U.S. industry, we estimate at about 9.8 million SAAR.”