General Motors and Toyota Motor suffered significant drops in car and truck sales in the United States in the first three months of the year as the global shortage of computer chips continued to disrupt production and leave dealers with bare lots.
G.M. reported on Friday that its sales declined 20 percent to 512,846 light cars and light trucks. Toyota, which is the world’s largest automaker, sold 514,592 vehicles in the first three months of the year, a drop of 15 percent. The company’s sluggish sales worsened later in the quarter, declining 24 percent in March from a year earlier.
Edmunds, an automotive data provider, forecast total industry sales of 3.2 million vehicles in the quarter, down from 3.9 million a year ago.
“Skyrocketing gas prices were top of mind for consumers in March, but the lack of inventory is what ultimately depressed new vehicle sales in the first quarter,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’s executive director of insights, said. “Automakers are still grappling with ongoing disruptions to supply chains and production created by the chip shortage and Covid-19. On top of that, they’re likely facing new challenges as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.”
Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer that recently began selling a pickup truck, also pointed to the war in Ukraine in its annual report on Thursday, saying the conflict has impacted multiple facets of its business and operations.
Ms. Caldwell predicted automaker and dealers would be grappling with inventory shortages for the rest of this year.
G.M. said its dealers had 273,760 vehicles in inventory or in transit to their lots. That was an improvement from the second half of last year but fewer than at the end of March 2021, when its dealers had 334,628 vehicles in stock.
Still, company officials said they were confident that chip supplies would improve soon. “Supply chain disruptions are not fully behind us, but we expect to continue outperforming 2021 production levels, especially in the second half of the year,” Steve Carlisle, an executive vice president who is also president of G.M. North America, said in a statement.
G.M. said a strong labor market, higher production and pent-up demand should help increase its total sales of new cars and trucks in the United States this year, above the 15 million sold in 2021.
“Ordinarily, a U.S. economy this strong would translate into light vehicle sales in the 17-million range,” G.M.’s chief economist, Elaine Buckberg, said. “Improvements in the supply chain should lift auto sales as the year progresses, despite headwinds from higher inflation and fuel prices.”
G.M.’s sales of electric vehicles, the fastest growing segment of the auto market, remained very low in the first quarter. The company sold fewer than 500, 99 of them Hummer pickup trucks.
Toyota, which does not yet sell a fully electric vehicle in the United States, said it had strong demand for hybrid models, sales of which fell just 4 percent in the first quarter.
Honda, Stellantis and other automakers are expected to report their sales totals later on Friday. Ford Motor plans to release its sales figures on Monday.
Source: NY Times