Tuesday, August 3, 2010

General Motors, Chrysler and Ford sales rise, perhaps

Could it possibly be true that U.S. automobile companies General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are reporting sales gains and, assumedly, profits instead of more red ink?
That is what U.S. automakers said Tuesday, even though many of the figures were adjusted to allow for corporate changes, like Ford's sale of its Volvo brand, and the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, according to the Reuters international news service. The announcements were not well-received by stock market investors, who sent Ford shares down nearly 2 percent, even though normally buoyant Toyota and Honda sales fell in July. But the sales increases were met with enthusiasm by some industry analysts, who had feared the U.S. economy was facing a double-dip recession. "In June, you had the feeling that maybe the industry wasn't out of the woods, and there was a lot of talk of a double dip. But June really seems to have been a blip," Al Castignetti, the head of Nissan sales in the U.S. market, told Reuters. Yeah, maybe. The big problem is that auto industry players talk on and on but what they say may not have anything to do with what's really going on. GM and Chrysler have been allowed to take billions of dollars worth of debt off their balance sheets -- without paying the money back, of course, and eventually sticking the taxpayer with the bill -- and to re-enter the world of real companies even though the U.S. taxpayer owns major amounts of their shares. How can anyone ever trust company reports again? Ford did not take bailout money or file for bankruptcy but have shown little resiliency going forward. Where are the new U.S. car models? Where are the new head-turning designs? Doesn't anyone in the industry care that nobody talks about American cars anymore unless they work for the Justice Department? "We are certainly optimistic about our prospects for the third quarter," Ford's U.S. sales chief, Ken Czubay, told Reuters. Yeah, right.

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