Vehicle Sales Plunge

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The New York Times
March 4, 2008

Car sales
  “When there’s a downturn in the economy and people are nervous about their jobs, the last thing they want to do is make a big purchase.”

Sales of cars and trucks in the United States fell 10 percent in February as oil prices climbed past $100 a barrel and worries about a recession rattled consumer confidence.

Honda was the only major automaker that sold more vehicles last month than in February 2007, though the increase was just 0.7 percent. The Detroit Three, whose lineups are still heavy in sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks despite their introduction of new passenger cars and crossovers, each reported double-digit percentage declines when adjusted for one additional selling day this year.

Sales of light trucks plunged 26 percent at Chrysler and 23 percent at General Motors, according to the Autodata Corporation, which tracks industry statistics.

The carmakers largely blame the housing slump for the lackluster demand, particularly for the pickups used by building contractors, but steadily rising gas prices are yet another concern.

“I think $3 seems to be the invisible barrier that makes a difference,” said Steven J. Landry, Chrysler’s executive vice president for North American sales. Chrysler is owned by Cerberus Capital Management.

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