Edmunds.com — 2010 sales will be in low 11 million range

(July 29, 2010) Edmunds.com has analyzed the performance of the auto industry so far this year and determined that it seems increasingly likely that this year's sales will be in the low 11-million range.

"Analysis of the first half of 2010 shows the auto industry has had its winners and positive trends, but an upward sales trajectory now seems clearly stalled," reported Edmunds' AutoObserver.com Senior Editor Bill Visnic in his story "Buckle Up, Industry Recovery Going to Be Bumpy". "It just may be that the current sales level represents a new norm that takes years, rather than months, to substantially improve upon."

Edmunds.com analysts have determined that:

• Factor out fleet transactions, and the retail sales volume for the first half of 2010 was only 11.5 percent better than the first half of 2009 — not a significant improvement from a remarkable low point.
• In the first half of the year, eight automakers trailed their dismal 2009 sales numbers.
 • Compared with two years ago, only six of the 37 makes tracked by Edmunds.com increased sales for the first half of the year. Of the top 10 performers in 2010 so far, only Subaru, Audi and Volkswagen sold more vehicles in the first half of the year compared with the first half of 2008.

That being said, a number of this period's developments are positive:

• Inventories and incentives are being well-managed at appropriate levels.
• For the domestics, the painful trials of the past two years supposedly have transported them past the "profitless prosperity" in markets of nearly 17 million sales to the prospect of decent earnings at industry volumes close to today's depressed levels.
• General Motors and Chrysler Group emerged from bankruptcy with no lasting damage to public perception.
• A new generation of appealing fuel-efficient vehicles are on the road and more are on the horizon.

"Even in the face of a shaky recovery, automakers are overcoming the odds and adapting for survival," said Edmunds.com senior economist Rebecca Braeu. "The industry is doing what it has needed to do for a long time: consolidate. This alone is reason to be optimistic about the future for the auto industry. However, in the near term, auto sales are dependent on the state of the labor market; and since job growth is expected to be frustratingly slow, auto sales are likely to mirror this trend."