General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, bailed out by $13.4 billion in federal loans last month, probably led a decline in December U.S. auto sales that capped the industry's worst year since 1992, Bloomberg reported.
Sales dropped 48 percent from a year earlier at Chrysler, 41 percent at GM and 33 percent at Ford Motor Co., based on the average estimates of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Toyota Motor Corp. may report a 40 percent slide and Honda Motor Co. may say its total was down 36 percent, Brian Johnson, a Barclays Capital analyst in New York, said in a Dec. 31 note to investors.
Auto sales tumbled more than 25 percent each month since September as the credit crunch reduced access to loans and consumer confidence fell amid a weakening economy. With demand for large pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles damped earlier this year by record fuel prices, analysts expect an annual total of slightly more than 13 million autos, the fewest in 16 years.
"Consumers are scared," said Erich Merkle, an auto analyst in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for consulting firm Crowe Horwath LLP. "People that are going to be laid off won't be buying cars, and even those that are working are likely delaying purchases."
U.S. jobless rolls reached a 26-year high in the week ended Dec. 20, signaling a worsening labor market as the economy heads into the second year of recession.