As Car Sales Drop, Thousands of Jobs at Stake

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General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) laid off over 1,000 at a plant in Ohio. The Chevy Cruz, a small sedan, is made at the facility. It is a low-priced, high-mileage car. Like other vehicles in its segment, sales are down sharply. Thousands or more U.S.-based car manufacturing jobs are at stake over the next few months.

The Cruz is not the only GM car with troubled sales. Sales of the Impala are off 16% to 14,067 through the first three months of 2018. Sonic sales are down 22% to 5,983. Sales of the Camaro sports car are off by 23% to 11,792.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) has similar problems. Fusion sales are down 14% to 16,103. Taurus sales are off 36% to 2,569 for the first quarter.

Across other manufacturers, from Fiat Chrysler to Toyota to Honda, there are similar problems. There are rumors that some of the largest manufacturers may stop production of their weakest selling cars completely.

Most auto industry experts believe that the swing away from cars to sport utility vehicles, pickups and crossovers is permanent, at least until gas prices rise sharply again and for a long time. The cycle of manufacturers chasing gas prices is an old one. The current chase has put sedan and coupe sales at recent bottoms, almost certainly since the Great Recession and the car company bailout that saved GM and Chrysler.

The only two options car companies have as consumers transition to ownership of trucks and SUVs is closing plants and firing people. Closing plants is an event that does not save enough money. Thousands and thousands of layoffs do.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said car manufacturing jobs rose above 200,000 in 2016. That number has begun to slowly drop. And the decline is likely to accelerate. The falloff in car manufacturing jobs could take a nosedive this year.

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