Following the recent dreadful auto sales numbers out of the United States, both Germany and Brazil have posted extremely weak auto production and sales numbers, prompting more questions about the state of the global economy.

According to JP Morgan, auto production in Germany has been surprisingly weak in recent months, with the prospects of a recovery delayed until "at least October." This was unveiled with the German July Industrial Production data for July which was "a disappointment," as manufacturing slumped 1.9%m/m and 6% annualized below 2Q18. Of this, automotive was the biggest weakness.

The shifting timing and pattern of holidays across the German states over the summer likely knocked the latest IP data around a lot, but this year the new emissions testing regime is adding a real drag. Since 1st September, all new cars need to be certified under the new testing regime, but some German producers appeared to have fallen far behind this deadline. Some car models have temporarily been removed from sales, while others have had to be modified to meet the new standards, resulting in reduced production levels to manage the changeover.

Meanwhile, according to more concurrent car production data from the German Automobile Association (VDA) which is now available for the month of September - and which counts the number of cars rolling out of factories - production has collapsed even further. An additional problem, is that the VDA data had already slumped in July (almost -20%m/m), while the IP data showed a fall of 6.7%m/m.

While the VDA may be overstating the weakness, it is also possible that IP has much further to fall, adding to concerns about Europe's slowing economy.

Not to be outdone by the United States or Germany, Brazil also posted plunging numbers for September. Auto production in the country was down 23.5% in September M/M, according to Reuters, while sales were down 14.2% over the same period according to the National Automakers Association. Brazil has traditionally been one of the world's five largest auto markets until the country's recent economic downturn. Companies like General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all have major operational facilities in Brazil.

And then there is the US, where earlier this week we reported the latest surprisingly poor auto sales numbers for September.

Results from Ford, Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Fiat all tell the story of an industry that had a terrible month, with few silver linings. Three of these names posted double digit percentage declines in YOY sales and three of them missed analyst estimates.

Some details:

  • Ford posted an 11% drop, missing analyst estimates of 9.1%. The F-Series pickup line ended a 16-month streak of sales gains. Mustang sales were down 1.3%. 
  • Nissan posted a 12.2% drop in September. Nissan and Infiniti brand car sales fell by 36%, including a 28% drop for the Altima sedan as the company prepared to start selling an all-new version this week.
  • Toyota sales were down 10.4%, far below estimates of 6.7% for the month. Combined sales for Toyota and Lexus brand cars fell 25.3%. 
  • Fiat posted the only true "beat", as sales rose 15% versus analyst estimates of 8%. However, the Chrysler brand fell 7% to 14,683 vehicles and the Fiat brand fell 46% to 1,185 vehicles. The deficit was made up on Jeep sales, which were up 14%, as well as sales of Ram pickups and minivans.
  • Volkswagen of America car sales were down 4.8%
  • GM third quarter total sales were down 11%. The company stopped reporting monthly numbers earlier this year, with many suspecting that weakness in the production pipeline is responsible; they were right. 

As discussed previously, the lack of auto incentives was the primary driver for the poor US auto numbers, prompting the question: absent carmaker subsidies, just how strong is the US auto market in particular, and the overall economy in general.