May 2, 2009

US car sales continue to suffer

US car sales continued to struggle in April as cash-conscious consumers remained reluctant to buy new vehicles, and the industry faced turmoil.

Chrysler saw a 48% drop in April sales from the same month a year ago, a day after seeking bankruptcy protection.

Japan's Toyota sales fell 42%, with Nissan seeing a 38% slide. Sales at Ford slid by almost 32%, General Motors lost 34% and Honda were off 25%.

However beleaguered GM said it thought the market was "stabilising".

Earlier this week GM, which is trying to avoid a bankruptcy filing before 1 June, unveiled a turnaround plan - including factory closures, the end of the Pontiac brand and the sale of brands such as Saab and Hummer.

Chrysler, which is applying for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, attributed its sharp decline to a planned cut sales to fleet customers - which bring low profit margins, as well as the broad economic downturn.

But it said the figures were well above expectations which showed "the real strength of our dealers and products in the marketplace in spite of a month filled with troubling headlines".

'Dust bowl'

Toyota's poor month, saw it lose its number two spot to Ford for the first time in more than a year.

Ford increased market share, helped in part by sales of its Fusion - the only vehicle model that showed an increase among the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.

There had been hope that the month would see some signs of improvement for the industry but BMW's North America president Jim O'Donnell said April "felt more like a dust bowl than a spring garden for new car sales".

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