General Motors, no stranger to trouble through the first half, and posting a second-quarter sales downturn of 5% globally and 20% in North America nevertheless today saw its stock rise to nearly double its value as late as last week, hitting $16.32 per share, before falling back to a still-improved $14.61 by mid-day according to The Detroit News. The rise is based on falling oil prices and a general upturn in the economy reflected in the stock indexes.
Toyota is having a strong run at things lately as well, with a 2% increase in second quarter sales compared to last year, despite the generally down market. With 2.406 million vehicles delivered worldwide through June 30th, the company is on pace to reach nearly 10 million units for the year. Based on the numbers so far, that puts Toyota firmly in the number one spot globally, leading GM by about 260,000 vehicles through the first six months of 2008.
Chrysler announced today that it would be cutting 1,000 white collar jobs from its contract workforce, a move designed to improve profitability and give the company a lighter load to face the decreased sales volumes brought on by the weak economy. Even with the layoffs, however, the company's current liquidity is still strong, according to a company spokesman.
Ford is also expected to post a loss for the second quarter, though it already has plans in place to push its line-up toward more fuel-efficient vehicles and increase North American production and sales of next-generation engines and cars. The first quarter went unexpectedly well for the Blue Oval, posting a surprise $100 million profit across its global operations, buoyed largely by its European arm.
Focusing solely on the U.S. market is also something of an increasingly poor proposition - while it is certainly still the largest single market, places like Russia and China are gaining ground rapidly. Just last month Russia replaced Germany as the largest market in Europe - and Chevrolet is the leading brand there.
The market is in a period of readjustment, and as the individual companies change to meet the new challenges, there will be some growing pains. The bottom line: yes, these are tough times for the industry, but all the incessant bankruptcy rumors and sky-is-falling rhetoric are largely uncalled for if one takes the time to really dig into the facts.