Downshifting Into May: A Review of April's Auto Sales

|
Includes: DDAIF, F, HMC, HYMLF, NSANY, TM, VLKAF
by: Wall Street Strategies
By David Silver
It was actually a tough call which pun we wanted to use for the title this month, but very few encompassed all the automakers. Ford (NYSE:F) continued on its stellar run while Toyota (NYSE:TM) and General Motors saw sales slow from the previous month. Most of the major automakers saw sales slow from the previous month, with Chrysler being one of the few to register a gain. For the month of April (compared to March), Chrysler saw its sales increase 3.3%, compared to 3.4%, 11.3%, and 15.7% declines for General Motors, Ford, and Toyota.
General Motors estimates that the industry’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales (SAAR) was approximately 11.1 million vehicles; that is up from the 9.2 million registered last year (in one of the worst months) but was lower than March’s 11.8 million vehicle figure. Most automakers reported another strong month, but it is coming from extremely easy comparisons. In March of 2010, almost every automaker increased its incentives to combat the Toyota recall, however, many automakers lessened the amount of incentives during April and their sales suffered. In my opinion, Ford is the only company that really maintained some strong momentum as its F-150 was a big seller. For General Motors, the actual increase of 19.7% at its core 4 brands should be what is grabbing the headlines. For Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac, sales increased 19.7% compared to April of 2009; GM’s other brands which are being sold or dismantled sold only 906 vehicles during the month compared to more than 20,000 in the year ago month.
Company
Vehicles
Change Y/Y
Change During 2009
General Motors
183,997
6.4%
13.1%
Ford Motor Company
162,996
25.5%
34.4%
Toyota Motor Company
157,439
24.4%
11.7%
Chrysler
95,703
24.8%
1.9%
Daimler
18,288
25.5%
15.7%
Volkswagen
23,135
42.0%
40.5%
Nissan Motor Company
63,754
35.1%
31.5%
Honda Motor Company
113,697
12.5%
11.5%
Hyundai
44,023
30.0%
20.2%
Click to enlarge
As we mentioned earlier, the Ford F-150 had a strong month, with sales increasing more than 42% compared to last year. This could be a good sign for the economy as a whole, as contractors and builders favor the pick-up truck and had been delaying purchases until the economy began to improve.
Moving through the next few months, the industry will continue to see strong year over year growth (Chrysler entered bankruptcy at the end of April 2009 and GM followed suit in June) as the industry is cycling easy comparisons. The real litmus test for the industry will be sequential improvement and incentives. If sales improve sequentially while incentives taper off that is an extremely positive point for the industry. However, if the growth continues to be fueled by incentives, it could eat into the profitability of the automakers.
Ford reported a stronger quarter for its first quarter, and expects to be “solidly profitable” for 2010. Sales in the Middle East, Asia, and South America continue to be strong for the industry as a whole; however, the next problem area will be Europe. Over the weekend, the IMF and European Union announced its bailout of Greece, with a big drop in government spending required for Greece. Many European countries still have their own government incentive programs (think cash for clunkers) which are scheduled to expire between now and the end of 2010. Germany already ended its incentive program and has seen sales drop approximately 20% in each month since.
Sales were strong for the industry as a whole, and Ford is still our favorite, and appears to be the only company with any momentum right now. After months of bad news, Chrysler is finally able to put one in the “plus column” but hopefully it will not be short lived. The industry is chugging along right now, but there are going to be speed bumps in the future, and we expect the first month to see a bump will be June. May will still have enough incentives to generate sales and it will be cycling easy comparisons.

Disclosure: Long Ford