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May Sales Drop – A Blip or a Trend?

May Sales Drop – A Blip or a Trend?

Just when we were beginning to feel good about the auto industry following eight months of sales growing by percentages in the double digits, sales plunged in May, down 4% from May of last year.

The question is whether the drop will be a trend the rest of the year or a “minor” disruption for a couple of months. The major challenge is lack of inventory resulting from the earthquake in Japan earlier this year. The lack of inventory has led to record average transaction prices of nearly $29,000.

With little to no inventory, incentives have plummeted, especially those from the Japanese companies. According to, incentives in May were at their lowest level since 2002. High gas prices that have likely kept buyers out of showrooms haven’t helped either.

Toyota’s sales dropped almost 28% from last year while Honda sales were down 16.1%, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank.

Sales for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, however, continued to increase, although at a slower pace than earlier this year.

The good news is that production appears to be coming back and should be at normal levels by the end of June with inventory reaching dealer lots in July and August. Already, Toyota has jumped back into the incentive game last week offering numerous deals on its top vehicles.

For dealers, it’s a matter of timing of when to ratchet up the advertising again. Dealers also should keep a close watch on used vehicle inventory and pricing. Used vehicle prices have jumped along with new vehicle prices creating a likely used vehicle bubble, but once incentives come back in August look for that bubble to come back to earth in a big way.

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Tags: Chrysler, Ford, General, Honda, Motors, Toyota, automotive, car, sales


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Comment by Stacy Mueller on June 9, 2011 at 2:35pm
With the way gas prices have been fluctuating up and down and then the shortage from the earthquake, it was difficult for dealers to really keep the right cars in stock. Maybe with production getting back on track, that can ease the prices a bit on used cars. Although as it has been pointed out before, a Toyota buyer may always be a Toyota buyer. If they were looking for a new car in the past months when production was down, they might have just held off and not gone for a used car. It will be interesting to see how this used car trend progresses.

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