US car sales for February, although much the same as January, have stabilised in the past two weeks which, according to Ford marketing and sales chief Jim Farley (pictured), is “encouraging” – a sentiment echoed by executives at Chevrolet and Toyota.
Sales across the US fell 37 percent overall in January from a year earlier under the recession there with the annualised rate of sales, a key measure for economists, falling to 9.57 million units, the lowest monthly rate since 1982.
Still, Farley said that the stabilisation of new retail sales that the industry has seen in recent months has continued in February and there has also been a slight improvement in used car sales.
“I can’t say it has bottomed out, because there is a difference between stabilising and bottoming out,” Farley said. “All I can say right now is that we have seen evidence for four months now of stabilisation.”
Farley also believes fleet modernisation proposals in government stimulus plans would be supportive of the industry and could help get customers back into showrooms, however consumer confidence appears to be the biggest factor driving sales below normal replacement levels.
Ford, which posted a record annual loss of $14.6 billion last year, has said that it expects to have enough cash to complete its turnaround plans without taking government bailout money, as long as conditions do not worsen.
Toyota’s US sales chief Bob Carter said February was much the same as January and that he believes although things have not worsened, they will continue to stay the same until consumers see some fundamental change to in turn increase their confidence in spending.
While expressing optimism that promotions around the US Presidents’ Day holiday would give the industry “a little lift,” Carter said, “We have no expectation it’s going to be like previous years.”
Ed Peper, the head of Chevrolet’s North American unit, agreed.
“So far, it’s been kind of like January,” Peper said. “It started off fairly similar. But I think this particular month, with a lot of the promotions that a lot of manufacturers are doing around Presidents Day, I think we will see a pickup in business.”