Ford's bombshell this week about its record $8.7 billion Q2 loss and sweeping overhaul of its North American lineup to smaller European models pretty much hogged the limelight in what was yet another dismal week in the global auto biz:
The prognosticators at JD Power quantified what everyone already knows: the pickup as a mainstream vehicle is a thing of the past. According to its forecasters, full-sized pickup truck production in North America will "fall off a cliff" in the second half of 2008 and likely end the year nearly 1 million units lower in the U.S. than in 2007 (1.40 million in the first half of 2007 and 1.17 million in the second half.)
We're #2! We're #2! If you think the battle for the title of World's Largest Automaker is only one on paper, think again. While overseas markets helped GM's global sales in the second quarter, North American sales fell 20 per cent from a year-ago. GM reported global sales of 2.28 million vehicles in the second quarter and global sales of 4.54 million vehicles through June, down 2.9 per cent. That compares with Toyota, which sold 4.8 million global units through June. Despite this, Toyota will trim its full-year goal to around 9.5 million vehicles, from an earlier forecast of 9.85 million. But is there any reason to think GM will ever get its crown back?
Then there was the Flex fiasco in Oakville... What started out as a rumour that the just-released Flex large crossover was going to be canned, "only" ended up as a "suspension" of a planned third shift at the plant that already makes the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers. Ford said "market conditions were too uncertain for it know when it might start the third shift," leaving in limbo the 350 recruits, who had been due to report to work on Monday. So, Ford, when do you think "market conditions" will get any better for such large and vehicles?
In addition to the bad news about the future of pickup sales, J.D. Power and Associates cut its projection of 2008 U.S. light-vehicle sales to 14.2 million units. That is down 750,000 units from the 14.95 million that Power projected earlier this year and down from the 16.2 million units sold in 2007.
For the first time in the 11 years since Mercedes began making SUVs in the States, the automaker said it will cut back production at its Alabama factory beginning in August. Sales of Mercedes U.S. truck sales fell to 5,090 vehicles in June, down 11.9 per cent from June 2007. Last year, the Alabama plant produced 174,356 units of the GL- and M-class SUV and R-class crossover for the global market.
Chrysler LLC said last Wednesday it plans to cut another 1,000 salaried jobs by the end of September to "slash costs and survive a deep industry downturn."
Whew! But then there's always next week...