Sales of new cars are falling due to lack of chips, reduced production, low inventory. Back to where they were in 1979

Toyota, whose sales fell less than GM and Ford, took first place in the first quarter.

Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Against the background of persistent shortages of chips and other deficits, cessation of production and depletion of stocks on lots of car dealers in the US, measured by the number of cars delivered to end users, in March fell 25.9% compared to March last year and 22% in compared to March 2019 to 1.25 million cars.

In the first quarter, sales fell 15.8% from the first quarter of 2021 and 17.7% from the first quarter of 2019 to 3.28 million vehicles, the worst figure for the first quarter since 2011.

As for the number of vehicles sold, the automotive industry did not grow in the two decades before Covid, and there was a major financial crisis between them. But since the beginning of 2021, problems with supply chains that concern the industry have caused the cessation of production at various plants around the world. And those shutdowns continue in April – though automakers say the components are starting to do a little better. Sales in the first quarter were where they were in 1979.

Industry revenues have been growing for decades – these are higher prices, and this is very important now that unit sales are still declining. Higher retail prices are a combination of factors: more expensive models, higher MSRPs and lower incentives from automakers. Low incentives for automakers for decades have contributed to the surprising phenomenon that many buyers pay for a sticker.

JD Power estimates that in March, buyers spent $ 45.7 billion on new cars. But that was down $ 6.2 billion from March 2021, as higher prices alone were not enough to overcome falling sales.

Production continues to break down. For example, today GM stopped production of its Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 at an assembly plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana for two weeks due to a shortage of semiconductors.

When GM announced the closure of the plant last week, it said chip supplies have improved so far this year. But “there is still uncertainty and unpredictability in the semiconductor supply base, and we are actively working with our suppliers to mitigate possible problems in the future.”

GM also said production at its plant in Lansing Grand River would be halted all week due to supply chain problems, this time unrelated to semiconductors. The plant produces Cadillac CT4, Cadillac CT5 and Chevrolet Camaro.

Ford has stopped production for the entire week, starting today, at its Flat Rock assembly plant in Michigan due to a shortage of semiconductors. Production at the plant, which produces Mustang, has stopped several times this year.

Toyota said it would cut global car production by 17% in April. Other automakers have similar problems with supply chains.

Toyota reported on Friday that 194,178 cars were sold in March, up 23.5% from the same period last year. In the first quarter, 515,592 cars were sold, which is 14.7% less than in the same period last year. Despite the sharp drop, those sales fell less than sales of GM and Ford, and that made Toyota the largest automaker in the U.S. in the first quarter, ahead of GM.

GM, reporting quarterly sales said on Friday that its first-quarter sales were down 20.1% year-over-year to 512,846 vehicles, with retail sales falling even more and fleet sales up 10 % compared to the same period last year. This again put GM behind Toyota.

GM said production has increased since late September. Stocks at dealer lots and on the road rose to a very low 273,760 vehicles, but that was more from 128,757 units at the end of the third quarter of last year and 199,662 vehicles at the end of the 4th quarter. GM expects stocks to “remain relatively low,” the report said.

Ford reported today that its sales in March fell 25.6% over the same period last year to 159,328 vehicles. Sales of the fleet (mainly for rent) increased, but retail sales decreased by 30.1% compared to the same period last year. In the first quarter, sales fell 17.1% to 432,132 vehicles

Given the shortage of goods, customers began to order vehicles and wait for months. Ford said retail customers ordered 50,000 F-Series trucks in March. Deliveries of the F-Series in March, given supply problems, totaled only 44,906, including fleets. In other words, Ford’s lag behind F-Series retail orders has grown over the month.

FCA, a division of Stellantis, said on Friday that its sales in the first quarter fell 14% to 405,221 vehicles. The FCA owns the brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat and Alfa Romeo. Declining by just 14% in the first quarter, sales outpaced the industry, “despite being affected by existing supply chain constraints facing our industry,” the statement said.

Tesla does not report sales in the US at all. It reports only global sales, which jumped 68% to 310,048 vehicles in the first quarter thanks to a new factory in Shanghai, “despite ongoing problems in supply chains and production shutdowns,” Tesla said. In the second quarter, production began at plants in Texas and Germany. But his factory in Shanghai was closed on March 28 and remains closed today amid a blockade of Covid in Shanghai.

It is amusing to note that Musk was terribly submissive to the authorities in China who imposed the blockade on Shanghai, and he was silent about it, as opposed to his disobedience to the US when the authorities tried to do the same during the closure in California. He’s sure he knows how the Chinese government treats billionaires who are trying to usurp its power structure – and nothing of it about “freedom of speech” in China, LOL.

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