November Auto Sales Crater

There was more grim news out of Detroit Tuesday as Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler reported dizzying declines in November sales.

As the leaders of the Big Three descended on Washington to make their case for a $25 billion federal bailout, Ford announced that November sales were down 30.6 percent, while GM absorbed a 41.3 percent drop.

Last month, Ford moved 123,222 vehicles, down from 177,485 in the year-ago period. GM suffered an even greater reversal, shifting 153,404 cars and trucks, versus 261,273 in November 2007.

Shortly after GM issued its monthly sales report, GM sales analyst Mike DiGiovanni told investors that the industry cannot survive without government intervention. “We’re in a much more severe situation than the rest of the economy, and it’s an unsustainable position for all manufacturers,” DiGiovanni said. “We cannot continue to operate at these levels or the entire industry’s going to go down.”

Privately-held Chrysler took the worst hit last month, as sales plummeted 47.1 percent to 85,260 vehicles, down from 161,088.

In a statement released Tuesday, Chrysler vice chairman and president Jim Press said that the company would bolster its ad spend in order to try and maintain its market share. “Our goal is to … keep a strong advertising and incentive presence in the marketplace,” Press said. (In the first half of 2008, Chrysler spent $406 million in measured media, down 30.5 percent from $584 million in the year-ago period, per TNS Media Research.)

Press also noted that withering consumer confidence and a scarcity of credit made year-over-year sales comparisons “irrelevant.”

As part of its restructuring plan, Chrysler chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli petitioned Congress for a $7 billion bridge loan payable by Dec. 31, saying that without the emergency infusion of cash, the company would not be able to “ensure [future] operations.”

GM has requested $4 billion loan to keep it solvent through January 2009, and is asking for as much as $18 billion. Ford is looking for total loan package of $9 billion.