Slipping Auto Sales: The Case For Rose-Colored Glasses?

Anybody who has even the slightest interest in the automotive business will tell you that the times they are a changing – and getting tougher and tougher each quarter. We’ve seen a slew of earning reports come out over the last couple of weeks, and if you read any of them, you would be hard pressed to think there’s even slim hope for this sector. All the big players saw double digit drops in their sales last month.

But there’s always one person who sees nothing but opportunities in the middle of a sales crisis, and that person is the Executive VP of Sales at Toyota’s North American Division, Bob Carter, who says that the media skewed the way the July results were presented to look unnecessarily pessimistic. He sees the North American market as “very, very healthy.” Just let that sink in for a minute.

Now, this is what the data showed this week was that light vehicle sales dropped 6.9% overall. So, Bob what do you think about that? Well, Bob says that sales are not going downhill any further and he believes that the industry as a whole is actually in a plateau phase that will probably hang in there for another 24-36 months. Now in all fairness, he might have a point for his brand as overall Toyota sales were up 3.6% year over year for July, but it’s important to note that Toyota’s trucks made up the shortfall from the drop in car sales, which was 12% lower year-over-year. Carter even disputes that analysis. In hi view is that the segment lines are far more blurred than they used to be, and what was once thought of as a passenger car might have been replaced with a pickup truck in today’s market.

To be honest, I guess I’d say the same if truck sales were saving my bacon. It’s a tough automotive market out there, and it is great to see someone who can be so energized and upbeat about it. Whether or not Carter is entirely correct, it’s a palliative to the exaggerated doom-and-gloom coming out of too many industry observers.