Ford's sales fell 7.2 per cent; At Nissan, sales dropped 1.5 per cent; General Motors sales were down 5.8 per cent; and Toyota reported a 2 per cent sales decline for the month. Demand for SUVs couldn't offset falling car sales
DETROIT—Ford, Nissan, General Motors and Toyota all reported a decline in U.S. sales for April, signalling that demand for cars, trucks and SUVs is starting to slow down after seven straight years of growth.
Ford’s sales fell 7.2 per cent, dragged down by car sales that tumbled over 21 per cent. At Nissan, sales dropped 1.5 per cent as SUV demand couldn’t overcome slowing car sales. Sales of the Rogue small SUV were up almost 40 per cent, but car sales fell nearly 14 per cent. It was about the same story at General Motors, where sales were down 5.8 per cent as strong performances from some SUVs and the Cruze compact car couldn’t offset falling pickup truck demand.
Toyota reported a two per cent sales decline for the month as healthy sales of the RAV4 small SUV were overcome by falling demand for cars such as the Camry and Corolla.
Industry analysts expect April sales to be down anywhere from two per cent to four per cent, but still run at a healthy annual rate of around 17.1 million vehicles. Most major automakers report sales figures on Tuesday.
Kelley Blue Book says it looks like 2017 U.S. sales will fall short of last year’s record 17.5 million for the first annual sales drop since 2009.
While sales still are healthy, automakers are offering deals to compete for a piece of the shrinking pie. But there are signs that the industry is relying too heavily on incentives.
The average price paid per vehicle is starting to wane after years of steady increases, even for popular SUVs. Previously SUV prices kept growing while car prices fell due to sagging demand.
The average price paid for an SUV in April was $33,165, according to the consulting firm J.D. Power and Associates. That was down 2 per cent from last April. One reason for the decline was that more customers were buying smaller, less expensive SUVs this year. But another was a whopping 18 per cent increase in incentives, which hit $3,338 per vehicle.
As automakers released sales data Tuesday, company shares came under heavy pressure.
The industry was one of the worst performing on the S&P 500 and Ford shares neared a two-year low.
Jeff Schuster, a senior vice-president at the forecasting firm LMC Automotive, said automakers are fiercely competing so they don’t lose sales in the hot SUV market. But that can lead to inflated demand, overproduction and ever-higher incentives.
“This will have to balance with natural demand at some point relatively soon or the industry will be heading into potential troubled waters and unhealthy habits,” he said.
Before the 2008 financial crisis, automakers were relying on incentives to boost sales and preserve market share, to the point that they were losing money on some models.
Last month, incentive spending was up 11 per cent on cars, to $3,903 per vehicle. The average price paid for a car was $25,516, which was about the same as last year.
Pickup trucks were the only segment in which automakers offered fewer deals. Incentive spending was down 6 per cent to $3,276 per vehicle. Customers were willing to pay $31,438 for a pickup in April, which was 1 per cent more than a year ago.