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1992 Model Year Off to Slow Start for Domestic Automakers With BC-Auto Sales-Table

October 16, 1991

DETROIT (AP) _ Domestic automakers limped into the 1992 model year with car and light trucks sales falling 10.1 percent in early October as many consumers waited for better economic news to trade in their old cars.

General Motors Corp. combined car and light truck sales fell 16.5 percent during the Oct. 1-10 period, while Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday its vehicle sales slipped 9 percent. The 1992 model year officially began Oct. 1.

Chrysler Corp.’s car and truck sales fell an estimated 17.7 percent. Chrysler doesn’t report sales for 10-day segments. The Associated Press estimates Chrysler sales based on the company’s average monthly market share over the past 12 months.

The automakers are coming off a dismal 1991 model year, which ended Sept. 30. The 12.5 million cars and light trucks sold was the worst model year since 1983, when the automakers sold about 11.7 million vehicles.

Part of the reason for continued slow times in the auto industry may lie in consumer jitters over the weak economy and the move toward downsizing of the work force in many industries.

″I think job security is the overwhelming concern right now among consumers,″ said Charles Brady, an auto industry analyst for Mabon Securities Corp. in New York.

Brady says the average age of vehicles now on the road is 7.6 years for cars and 8.1 for trucks. Still consumers are holding on to their old vehicles.

″These things are getting near replacement time, but if I don’t feel secure about my job, I’m not going to step up into a $300 a month car payment,″ Brady said.

Not helping matters are higher prices for 1992 models. GM is raising prices an average 3.1 percent; Ford 3.7 percent; and Chrysler 1 percent.

Showroom traffic was heavier in early October, according to one dealer, who says consumer interest was focused mainly on snatching up remaining 1991 models at bargain prices.

″It’s been a little better than in the past,″ said Sal Caliri, sales manager at Mel Clayton Ford in Phoenix, Ariz. ″They are looking ’91s more closely than ’92s.″

Sales rates tend to drop in early October because of fire sales dealers hold in September to sell off 1991 inventory.

The Big Three saw their combined vehicle sales fall 14.3 percent in early October, while Japanese automakers reported a 36.8 percent gain.

For the year to date, North American-made cars and trucks are down 11.7 percent, with the Big Three falling 14.2 percent and Japanese sales up 9.2 percent.

Ford spokesman Joel Pitcoff said the 17.5 percent drop in Ford truck sales in early October was expected because the September push to clear out 1991 models stole away some prospective October buyers.

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