DETROIT Jan 11 AutoNation Inc (AN.N), the
largest public car dealership group, has scaled back its orders
for new vehicles from automakers by 60 percent this month as
weak demand has increased inventories of unsold vehicles, Chief
Executive Mike Jackson said on Sunday.
"Inventory is high for everyone," Jackson told Reuters in
an interview on the sidelines of the Detroit Auto Show. "Orders
have been scaled back dramatically .... have been scaled back
60 percent for January."
Jackson said the plunge in U.S. sales has caused cars and
trucks to pile up on dealer lots and he does not expect any
improvement in demand during the first quarter.
"You may see some signs of life by end of March," he said.
Jackson said the U.S. auto industry was at "depression
level sales" at the current annual sales rate of about 10
The poor sales environment was affecting the mood at the
Detroit auto show, Jackson said. "I have seen a better mood at
funerals," he told Reuters TV.
Economic uncertainty was the key theme at the auto show
media preview that opened Sunday as the battered industry
shelved the glitz to save precious marketing dollars and braced
for another rough ride in 2009.
U.S. auto sales fell 18 percent to about 13.2 million
vehicles in 2008 from the prior year, battered by the downturn
in the economy and most automakers expect sales to decline from
there in 2009. The rate has hovered just above 10 million on an
annualized basis in the last couple of months.
Jackson said he expects a gradual improvement in the U.S.
market in the second half of the year, given the massive
stimulus package being considered by the incoming Barack Obama
"In 2010, you could be back between 13 million and 14
million units," he said.
Jackson said lack of credit remained a key issue for
"If credit was not an issue, we could be running at a SAAR
of 12 million and 13 million (units)," he said, adding that the
restoration of credit availability is critical for the
improvement in auto demand.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based AutoNation owns and operates
321 vehicle franchises in 15 states with a range of U.S., Asian
and European automobile brands.
(Editing by Bernard Orr)