Car sales keep rolling

It seems like even the auto industry has gotten Black Friday fever, as auto sales were very strong in November, and they were particularly strong over the Thanksgiving Day weekend across America. The rush of car buyers enabled the automobile industry post an annual U.S. sales rate of 13.6 million vehicles this past November, the strongest performance since August of 2009 when the “cash for clunkers” program was in effect and helped to turbocharge sales.

What’s driving this in the US? The economy is definitely starting to get better. The news from Europe seems to keep holding things back, but companies seem to be hiring as well as we’ve seen from the better employment numbers. So consumers are definitely feeling better. But we also have a situation where there are fewer used cars after the slump of recent years, so now used car prices are higher. This pushes demand to new cars and also helps with trade-ins. So we’re finally in a good situation for the car industry.

We’re also in a situation where the auto companies have hit a good grove. The products are getting better as everyone has had a wake-up call and unnecessary brands and models have been cut.

In the UK the news isn’t as good, as the economy there is having a tougher time and the situation in Europe can’t be helping consumer confidence. So you have a better chance of finding new car deals over there. As usual, do your homework and read all the UK car reviews if you’re shopping in that market.

  

Cash for Clunkers a great success

Remember the “Cash for Clunkers” program last year? I know that everyone who is familiar with the program has their own take on whether it was a good idea. According to a new analysis by Maritz Research, an automotive market research company the program was better than even it’s supporters imagined!

From CNN.com:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The government’s Cash for Clunkers program resulted in a far bigger boost to car sales than was previously estimated, even by the government, according to a new analysis by Maritz Research, an automotive market research company.

Maritz estimates that a total of 765,000 new vehicles were sold because of the program. Those cars wouldn’t have rolled off dealer lots without the offer, they say.

That’s more than double the Department of Transportation’s estimate of 346,000 sales that wouldn’t otherwise have been made.

Maritz’ estimate of additional new car sales resulting from the program is actually even larger than the total number of vehicles sold under Cash for Clunkers.

Read the full article here.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

  

More production increases coming from GM

2010 Chevy Equinox

We have more good news from GM. The news on the Chevy Equinox in particular isn’t surprising. It’s a sharp-looking vehicle with a very reasonable price, so it’s perfect for the current climate.

General Motors is examining ways to ramp up production of four newer models that are selling well above its expectations, a GM spokesman said on Wednesday.

All four models are greatly revamped from previous versions and one, the Chevrolet Camaro, was resurrected five months ago after being out of production for seven years.

The four models are the Chevrolet Equinox, a crossover utility vehicle; Buick LaCrosse, a sedan; Cadillac SRX, also a crossover; and the Camaro, a sports car.

The potential increase in production at GM could prompt more workers to be recalled from layoff, a rare bright spot for the world’s No. 2 automaker just two months after it emerged from bankruptcy protection.

GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said GM knew it would have to increase production of some of its models after a summer when inventory levels were at unsustainably low levels, but that these four models in particular had outstripped expectations.

GM said it will also look for a second production plant for the Equinox, which is now assembled at the CAMI Automotive plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, which GM owns with Suzuki Motor (7269.T). The Terrain is also built there.

Sales for the 2010 model Equinox were about 9,900 through September 15. The redesigned Equinox was launched in June.

September will be a critical month. It’s important that sales don’t fall off too much following the end of the cash for clunkers program.

  

GM starts to ramp up production

2009-checy-cobalt-sfe-sedan

The cash for clunkers program continues to have positive effects, as GM is now increasing production to meet the new demand.

With its Chevrolet Cobalt in demand because of the federal “cash for clunkers” rebate program, General Motors said today it would restart the second shift at its Lordstown plant early next month.

More than 1,000 people will return to work, bringing employment at the plant to about 3,300. The news comes just in time for some laid-off workers who were about to see their benefits reduced.

“It’s a huge relief,” United Auto Workers Local 1112 President Jim Graham said. “We’ve know for some time that this would happen. We just didn’t know when it was coming back.”

GM executives said they had to restart the shift at Lordstown, where the Cobalt is assembled, and add production at other plants because the automaker was running out of cars. The clunkers program, which offers up to $4,500 to people who trade older gas-guzzlers for new, more fuel-efficient models, had left some dealers short of cars. The program is expected to end around Labor Day.

The increased production is not limited to Lordstown.

In addition to the new shift at Lordstown, GM is restarting a shift at the Canadian plant that builds the Chevrolet Equinox, a five-passenger crossover that can get 32 miles per gallon on the highway, said Tim Lee, GM’s vice president for manufacturing.

He added that demand for GM’s small pickups and its HHR wagon are also up, so GM could add shifts to plants in Louisiana and Mexico, too.

In addition, GM plans to keep open its Lake Orion, Mich., plant until November to build the Chevrolet Malibu. That plant had been scheduled to close next month. It was set to reopen in 2011 to make small cars.

Needless to say, this is excellent news for the auto industry and for the overall economy. Areas like Northeast Ohio have been suffering from growing unemployment, and every little bit helps. This also bodes well for auto suppliers.

  

Cash for Clunkers wildly successful

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We know that thousands of Americans are taking advantage of the Cash for Clunkers program, so the program is helping to drive auto sales and stimulate the economy. In case you haven’t noticed, we can use some stimulation.

Beyond that, however, it turns out that the program is even more successful than originally thought when it comes to replacing gas guzzlers with fuel efficient cars.

And the Transportation Department reported that the average gas mileage of the vehicles being bought was significantly higher than required to qualify for a rebate of $3,500 to $4,500. Of 120,000 rebate applications processed so far, the department said the average gas mileage of cars being bought was 28.3 miles per gallon, for S.U.V.’s, 21.9 miles per gallon, and for trucks, 16.3 miles per gallon.

“The statistics are much better than anybody dreamed they would be,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. The actual mileage gain so far, she said, was not due to the details of the law but “the good judgment of the American people.”

Senator Feinstein, along with Senator Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine, was the author of an early version of a “cash for clunkers” bill that would have required bigger improvements in mileage. Their decision to express support for extending the current version of the program, at a news conference late Monday afternoon, was an important signal to other senators concerned about whether the program was doing enough for the environment.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, an early backer of the Feinstein-Collins approach, also voiced support for an extension. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “It’s working in every way. It’s working as stimulus, it’s working to help families, it’s working to improve mileage.”

The chances are pretty good that Senate will vote this week to extend the program so that it can be signed by President Obama.

Some opponents of the program have expressed concern that auto sales will stall after the program ends, whether it ends now or in the fall after an extension. This concern is unfounded. Many people taking advantage of this program have older cars that they’ve driven for years, and many of them keep older cars for the simple reason that they are thrifty. Without this program, many of them would likely keep their old cars. With the program, they have a huge financial incentive to junk the old car and pick up a new one at a great price. Along those lines, Ford announced today that they see car sales rebounding through 2010, as pent-up demand starts to drive the market.

  

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