Collapsing Russian Car Sales Hit GM, Ford, Toyota, VW

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The last time we looked at sales of cars and light commercial vehicles in Russia, the situation was bad and headed toward being worse. In the three months since our report, the situation has indeed gotten worse.

Sales of new vehicles had dropped 12% month-over-month in May and were down 6% for the year to date. August sales were down nearly 26% month-over-month and are down 12% for the year to date.

For the 12 months of 2013, Russian consumers bought 2.78 million new vehicles, down 5% from 2.94 million in 2012. So far this year, Russians have purchased 1.58 million vehicles through the first eight months of the year. The Association of European Businesses in Russia has forecast total unit sales of 2.45 million for 2014 and auto research firm Focus2Move.com is estimating total unit sales of 2.24 million. The analysts at Focus2Move.com have also forecast total 2015 sales at 1.9 million units.

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This matters to Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) and General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) especially. Toyota and its Lexus division combined are the third best-selling carmakers in Russia, with market share of 8.3% as of August 2014, up from 6.6% share a year ago. For the year to date, Toyota/Lexus claim market share of 7.2%, up from 6.2% a year ago, and volume is up 2.5% to 114,443 vehicles sold to date. Volume, however, is down 5.7% year-over-year for the month, and that could worsen in the months ahead.

GM’s market share dropped 2.7 points in August and monthly volume was down a whopping 46.4% year-over-year. For the year to date, GM’s market share is down from 9.2% a year ago to 7.9% and sales volume is down 24%.

Perhaps the bigger problem for GM is that its factory near St. Petersburg is foundering. The company has been planning an expansion of the $300 million plant for next year, but declining sales volumes and the uncertainty caused by the conflict in Ukraine may well put those plans on hold. GM will produce vehicles at the St. Petersburg factory on just four days in September and eight days in October. That hardly seems to justify any expansion. The plant makes the Chevy Cruze, the Opel Astra and the Chevy Trailblazer.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) saw its market share in Russia drop to 2.2% in August, from 3.9% a year ago. For the year to date, Ford claims share of 2.5%, compared with 3.9% a year ago, and sales volume of 39,670 vehicles, down nearly 43% year-over-year. Ford is pretty much an also-ran in Russia, ranking 11th in August market share.

The number two best-selling cars in Russia are made by Volkswagen, which grew its share slightly in August to 11.1%. For the year to date, the VW Group holds 11% of the market, equal to its share last year. The bad news is that sales volume is down 12%.

The European Union said Friday morning that it has added 15 companies and 24 individuals to its blacklist and has instituted new prohibitions on lending to three of the country’s largest oil companies. The European Union and the United States have indicated that sanctions against Russia could be eased later if Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps his commitment to seek a negotiated end to the Ukrainian conflict.

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