US auto sales declined 34 per cent in April but there was some cheer as Ford edged past Toyota and Chrysler's sales did not fall as sharply as some feared.
April lived up to being a cruel month, at least for the auto industry with Chrysler sliding into bankruptcy and General Motors (GM) fighting back to the wall to avoid the same fate and overall US sales plummeting 34 per cent from a year back.
But industry experts believe that it could possibly be the bottom of the barrel and things could only start getting better.
Chrysler sales tanked at 48 per cent for the whole of April but a substantial part of that reflected a drop in orders from rental car agencies. These are much less profitable that retail sales through car dealerships.
Ford sales at 134,000 vehicles were down 31 per cent in April and Toyota saw a steeper fall of 42 per cent to 126,000 allowing Ford to regain its No 2 position behind GM in total US sales for the first time since early 2008.
GM's sales were down 33 per cent from a year ago-a steep drop, but given the bankruptcy talk around the company analysts point out that it is not as bad as expected.
The company's sales actually improved from March and analysts believe hat the company must convince its bondholders to take deep discounts on their holdings by 1 June to help the automaker convince the Treasury Dept to commit more taxpayer loans to keep it going.
Japanese automakers fared no better, in fact they ended April a bit worse than Detroit. Aside from Toyota, Nissan was down 37 per cent, Honda, however did better with a decline of merely 25 per cent.
Honda increased incentive spending on its Accord sedan which saw the car better the Ford F-series pickup and Toyota Camry as the US best-selling model while South Korea's Hyundai Motor declined the least among major car makers. The company posted a decline of 14 per cent surpassing Nissan sales for only the second time in history.
Automakers had to offer incentives of nearly $3,031 for the average vehicle sold which was up 29 per cent from a year earlier according to analysts. However, it was less than the record $3,165 incentive offered the previous month.
Industry insiders are hopeful of a bounceback in the stock market and return of consumer confidence with the gradual loosening of credit to car buyers. This will help a turn around in sales in the second half of the year they believe.
The pain extended to the luxury car sector as well with Mercedes-Benz down 29 per cent and BMW down 32 per cent.