Detroit continues its slow bleed.
U.S. sales of cars manufactured in North America were actually up 0.4% in January 2008 compared with January 2007.
But this was not enough to make up for the 6.0% drop in the separate light truck category, which includes the SUVs, and whose sales continue to outnumber those for cars.
Despite their woes last year, autos managed to make a positive contribution to GDP growth for 2007 (see BEA Table 1.5.2). But at the present pace, that will change for 2008:Q1. Notwithstanding, the automotive sector tends to be far more cyclical than the rest of the economy, and the weakness we see so far in the sector still is not the precipitous sudden decline that is often associated with economic recessions. Another bright spot in the January numbers is that they continue the trend that appeared at the end of last year, in that domestically manufactured light vehicles gained market share slightly relative to imports. While domestic car sales were up, imported car sales were down 5.1% relative to January 2007 and imported light trucks were down 7.1%.
My bottom line? Not as bad as some of the early fears from last month might have led us to expect. But not exactly good, either.