Worst August in 28 years for GM and Ford

AUTO sales in the US slumped last month to their worst August in 28 years, reflecting the end of government sales subsidies and underscoring uncertainty about the strength of the US economic recovery.

The monthly auto sales figures are one of the first and broadest-based snapshots of consumer demand.

Most major automakers posted double-digit sales declines in the US market in August, led by Toyota and Honda, which saw results plunge by a third from the subsidy-fuelLed gains of August 2009.

Initial sales figures from major automakers pointed toward a US auto sales rate near 11.5m vehicles on an annual basis, analysts and industry forecasters said.

That would be up from the 11.3m sales rate of the second quarter but down sharply from the 14m plus in August 2009 when the US government’s “cash for clunkers” sales incentives touched off a short-lived boom.

General Motors, which is preparing a stock offering intended to reduce the US government’s majority stake, posted a 25 per cent sales drop for August.

Ford reported an 11 per cent sales decline for August year-on-year, while Nissan posted a sales drop of 27 per cent. Toyota sales were down 34 per cent and Honda dropped 33 per cent.

Chrysler, now operating under the control of Fiat SpA, posted a seven per cent sales gain. The third-largest US automaker has relied more heavily than its rivals on less-profitable fleet operators, led by car rental agencies.

Almost 40 per cent of Chrysler’s US sales through July were to fleet customers, according to industry estimates.

FAST FACTS | US CAR SALES

General Motors saw a 25 per cent year-on-year drop in car sales in August.
Ford saw an 11 per cent year-on-year drop in August.
Toyota saw a 34 per cent year-on-year drop.