The End of the Affair?

In cross-price elasticity of demand news, a story on the AP wire notes that, for the first time in ages, Toyota’s Camry and Corolla cars both outsold Ford’s full-size F-150 pickup truck. [*]

It’s arguably worse even than that for Ford’s truck business, since neither the Corolla (52,826 units sold) nor the Camry (51,291) was the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. last month; that award goes to the Honda Civic (53,299). As Honda also sold 43,728 Accords, that bumps the mighty pickup into 5th and 6th place for Ford and Chevy respectively.

In fact, poring over the gruesome sales numbers from the Domestic Three, it looks like $4 gasoline is enough to undermine the market for larger ‘crossover’ SUVs, without which measured truck sales would be even worse. (Crossovers are trucks partly for regulatory reasons and partly for marketing reasons; the features that let them pass for regulatory trucks put them at a considerable fuel-economy disadvantage compared to the few proper wagons that the auto industry deigns to sell in the U.S.) No surprise, then, that there’s quite a bit of belated scrambling to “build on car momentum” in industry-speak.

And as many of you have seen, that’s hitting the Domestic Three’s manufacturing employment:

General Motors is closing four truck and SUV plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico as surging fuel prices is hastening a dramatic shift to smaller vehicles.

CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday before the automaker’s annual meeting the plants to be closed are in Oshawa, Ontario; Moraine, Ohio; Janesville, Wis.; and Toluca, Mexico. He also said the Hummer brand may be discontinued.

Janesville is not far from Madison, and it was considered something of a coup at the time when Janesville retained its lines for GM’s large pickups and SUVs. However, the truck market had already peaked by the time the current models had reached production a couple years ago. Unfortunately for the 2000-odd GM employees (and a number of local employees of GM suppliers), GM’s product planners don’t have anything more marketable for them to build there.

[*] The story was edited to reflect later-arriving sales figures.