U.S. Automakers See Oct. Sales Drop Across The Board

DETROIT: Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors all watched October sales slump compared with prior-year figures. Industry observers trace much of it to the increased demand earlier in the year chewing up 1999 stock before it could be replaced by 2000 models. Ford was the last automaker to report sales, coming in with a 2.7% drop for the month. Truck sales were off 5.5%, while passenger cars were down merely 1.6%. GM was off 3.4% for the month, while DaimlerChrysler fell 4%. "I think dealers are experiencing a unique situation this year," says Fahnestock & Co. analyst Richard Hilgert. "Consumers started looking for those end-of-the-model-year deals and couldn't find them. There wasn't the availability out there." Ford's results could have been much worse, Hilgert says. He was predicting a loss of 8% for the month. He pointed to a plant changeover in Louisville where the Ford Ranger is produced. The facility is adding the new Explorer Sport Trac, which cut the production and availability of the truck. Ranger sales were off 28.7% in October. GM's overall loss was a surprise to Hilgert, who was predicting a slight increase in sales or at least "sales would remain flat." Again, he pointed to a lack of vehicle availability for the drop. DaimlerChrysler was a victim of improved sales due to the units it picked up at the expense of GM last year when the 54-day strike shut down all of GM's vehicle production facilities. Ford also picked up a lot of truck sales last year due to that event.

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