The U.S. car industry overall will post more sales this month compared to January 2018. However, the two largest American manufacturers, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), are expected to post drops as they struggle against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) and smaller foreign manufacturers.
Cox Automotive expects January sales across the industry to rise less than 1% to 1.15 million units. As sport utility vehicle, crossover and pickup sales continue to gain, car sales are expected to decrease by 30%. Because of this trend, Ford will be particularly hard hit, along with Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC), Nissan and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM).
GM sales are expected to drop 6.8% to 185,000. Ford sales are expected to fall 3.4% to 155,000. Fiat Chrysler sales, driven by the Jeep family of SUVs, is expected to post a sales gain of 9.2% to 145,000. FCA continues to gain on Ford for the position of America’s number-two car company.
Cox researchers wrote that the car industry is likely to see slow, if any, growth this year. Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, said:
We normally see a drop off in January sales versus December and that will be the story this year as well. The government shutdown that dominated the news and a few negative economic indicators likely drove consumers to be more conservative as uncertainty increases. The record-setting cold forecast for this final week of the month won’t help either.
Researchers also voiced concern about a U.S. economy that has started to slow and will undermine expensive purchases by consumers.
The data point to annual U.S. vehicle sales of 17 million, although it is far too early to have confidence in this number. Midsized and compact car sales are expected to post losses year over year in January. Pickup truck sales are expected to rise.
Ford, in particular, will have trouble turning it sales in the United States around. It is about to exit most of the American car market. Sales of its F-Series pickup and SUVs will not offset this. Ford relies heavily on the U.S. market because of weak sales in Europe and China. Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep, on the other hand, continues to add upgraded models to take advantage of the American appetite for SUVs.
A look at the entire Cox sales and market share forecast for January:
Note: Totals include brands not shown. GM monthly sales are estimated.