Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Very Good Year for Automakers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Very Good Year for Automakers

Article excerpt

For the auto industry, this is certainly not a winter of discontent -- except maybe at General Motors.

Sales for the first month of 1997 are rolling along at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15.5 million with total January sales of 1,091,980 cars and light trucks, a 6.3 percent gain over January `96.

Granted, in January `96 blizzards left a lot of East Coast sales people lonely in the dealerships, which tends to make the sales increases this year seem less important, but you can read some significance into who's gaining and who's losing. The sagging Japanese yen and a strong U.S. dollar are helping boost Japanese gains in U.S. market share, now at 24.54 percent of the market vs. 21.18 percent a year ago. Toyota alone showed a whopping 55 percent rise in January `97 sales over the `96 January. But even in the face of the Japanese gains, both Ford and Chrysler posted sales increases; only GM among the domestic makers lost ground, slipping 0.9 percent off last year's pace. More disturbing, however, is the fact that GM's market share now stands at 30.1 percent, a post World War II low with no sign of a turnaround any time soon. Ford posted a 2.8 percent gain for a 25.4 percent market share and Chrysler boosted January sales 1.5 percent finishing the month with a 15.4 percent share. The question now being asked is: How long before Ford passes GM? Last year was the best sales period for the industry since 1988 with 15.1 million cars and light trucks sold, a 2.5 percent gain over 1995. Still, GM managed to slip from 32.8 percent of the U.S. market in 1995 to 31.3 as 1997 dawned. Ford slipped a bit overall, too, from 25.7 percent to 25.4 percent at the end of `96. Chrysler, capitalizing on a revamped and revived truck line, gained 1.5 percentage points. However, at the end of January, Ford was back to 25.4 percent of share and Chrysler to 15.4 percent. Trucks defined the market in `96 as more and more Americans turned from traditional automobiles to vans, pickups and sport/utilities. …

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