Oh look Mom… failed auto sales do show the fragility of U.S. consumers

by Kenneth Schortgen, Rogue Money

Because the government and other ‘official’ statistics agencies have pretty much removed every standard consumer expenditure from their weekly, monthly, and quarterly reporting models, there are very few items available for Wall Street and the Fed to use to determine the strength of the American consumer.  One of these of course is automobile sales, and is an item that the mainstream loves to boast about over and over to say, ‘Look Here!  The Consumer is FINE!  They are buying lots of cars!’ So then what happens when all of a sudden all U.S. automobile manufacturers see a decline in sales at the same time?

“You can’t say we weren’t warned. As reported over a month ago, the biggest drag on recent consumer spending was auto sales. And this is happening as Automaker inventories are at their second highest in 23 years. If sales are collapsing, then the violent spike in relative inventories as seen in 2008 is not far away. GM sales plunged 18 percent, missing estimates for a 13 percent drop, with all four brands reporting declines of at least 14 percent. Ford’s light-vehicle sales slid 6.1 percent, according to Bloomberg, compared with an average estimate for a 4.9 percent decline. GM projects a sales pace for the month that is slower than analysts had predicted. GM said retail sales fell 13 percent and it continued to pull back on deliveries to rental-car fleets. The largest U.S. automaker said it sold 22,000 fewer rental cars in the month, the biggest reduction in the past two years. Sales of Ford and Lincoln passenger cars plunged 25 percent, led by a 37 percent slide for the Taurus sedan, once the company’s flagship. Even the redesigned Mustang saw its momentum fade as deliveries dropped 24 percent. Sales of the recently restyled Ford Edge sport utility vehicle fell 14 percent. F-Series truck sales rose 9 percent and van sales had their best May since 1978 on the strength of a 16 percent gain by the full-size Transit. To be sure, all of the six largest carmakers were estimated to report declines for May, but the severity of the drop has taken many by surprise. As Bloomberg notes, “even as auto sales gained in April and the U.S. consumer continues to spend, there have been signs of wavering economic confidence, and the industry may struggle to maintain its record pace. As a kickoff into summer on the back of Memorial Day weekend promotions, May is a bellwether for gauging buyer appetite.”

— Zerohedge
In a real world environment we would more often than not look at this monthly dip as an anomaly, or perhaps tied to some other circumstantial blip.  However, we know from looking at the real data outside the mainstream that consumers as a whole are in extremely dire straits. In an article entitled, “The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans‘, in this month’s issue of the Atlantic, writer Neal Gabler came out as one of the many millions of apparently middle-class Americans who are in fact living in a ‘more or less continual state pf financial peril’… scrabbling around to make ends meet, and mostly failing.

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