October Auto Sales Screech to a Halt

TOYOTA -26%
Toyota division -20%
Lexus -35%
Scion -38%
Highs: Corolla +2%, Sequoia +16%, LX470 +371% (on small volume)
Lows: Tundra -65%, LS -51%, xB -43%
For proof that even the strong were laid low in October, look no further than Toyota. Mighty Toyota suffered a hefty sales drop, despite zero percent financing (from its still-viable finance arm). The Tundra is looking particularly weak - and that's before Ford's freshened F-series was even out of the gate. The poor performance of the Scion xB is also alarming, since this is a relatively fresh model in what has been a hot segment. At Lexus, the figures get worse the higher one moves up the price ladder, with the LS turning in the worst performance and the IS looking the strongest, although still down. One tiny but very bright light was the LX570, where an additional 451 sales allowed it to nearly quadruple its predecessor's October, even as its sibling, the Land Cruiser, was off.

CHRYSLER -35%
Chrysler division -51%
Dodge -27%
Jeep -33%
Highs: Viper +142% (too bad it's for sale), Crossfire +128% (too bad it's dead)
Lows: 300 -62%, Compass -62%, Dakota -70%, the desperate merger talk
The rest of the industry caught up to Chrysler in October, in terms of nose-diving sales amid massive incentives. But Chrysler remains a special case due to the sickly smell of death that emanates from CEO Bob Nardelli and the Cerberus brain trust. The desperate attempt to offload Chrysler onto GM makes it - and, by extension, its products - seem all the more like damaged goods. Among the bad omens coming out of Chrysler this month was the news that it would stop production of its first hybrids, the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVS, only weeks after launching them, because it's closing the factory where they're made. The announcement, although distressing, didn't materially affect sales, of course (the hybrid SUVs are produced only in small quantities). All models - save the run-out Crossfire and the Viper - suffered declines, although the company portrayed Ram sales (-29%, selling mostly the '08 version) as relatively robust, and noted that Jeep Patriot sales were slightly better than last month and are up significantly year-to-date.

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