What discussion of slumping sales would be complete without mention of our suffering domestic brands? GM had the most worrisome January, despite its captive finance arm, GMAC, tiptoeing back into the new-car financing market. At Saturn, the little Astra's star performance (four times last year's sales!) was drowned in the mudslide of bad news from the Aura, the Vue, and the Outlook. Likewise at Pontiac, an uptick in Vibe sales meant little against dramatic declines for the G5 (which maybe wasn't such a good idea, after all), the Torrent (ditto), and the collapse of the G6. At Chevrolet, the pain and the blame was shared across the lineup (both car and truck), with the strong start for the Traverse the only bit of good news. There is no good news at Hummer, as the nightmare that was 2008 is actually worsening in 2009. At Ford, Mercury was the biggest loser, with only the Mariner and the Milan selling at better than half last year's rate. Chrysler's headline brand fared worse than Dodge or Jeep, both of which declined by (only) the industry average for the month. Concerning this month's sales, Chrysler's Jim Press might have had the most depressing - and most bracing - comment of all: "We need to recalibrate where the market is and stop dreaming about pent-up demand." In other words, January may be the new sales reality for some time. But even for that grim scenario to come true, we'll have to at least see things stabilized in February. We'll see if that happens.
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