Updated from 2:13 p.m. ESTGeneral Motors ( GM) said its February sales declined 52.9% and estimated that industry February sales were the worst since 1967. "It was stone cold flat the entire month," said Mark LaNeve, vice president for sales and marketing, on a sales conference call. "We didn't get the traditional lift that you get the back half of the month." He blamed "a barrage of bad economic news," particularly stock market news, and said many potential consumers are either out of work or worried about their jobs. "People are tracking their investments," LaNeve said. "That doesn't put them in the mood to go out and splurge on a new vehicle. Luxury got killed." GM said it delivered 127,296 vehicles in February; fleet sales fell by 75% while retail sales were off 43%. Car sales rose by 23%, while crossover sales rose by 6%. Earlier today, Ford ( F) reported that its February sales had fallen 48%. While February sales would project to total domestic vehicle sales of 9.2 million this year, GM still expects sales in the 10 million to 10.5 million range, said Mike DiGiovanni, executive director of global market analysis. "The February numbers are clearly a step down from where we've been running the last four months," he said. "It's unsettling to our business. We hope we are seeing the trough and that we'll see growth as the stimulus package kicks in. If we don't see that, these are unsustainable levels causing automakers (around the world) to look for government aid."
He noted that Brazil, China and Germany have provided more substantial aid to their auto industries than the U.S. has. On Tuesday, Toyota ( TM) said it would need to borrow from the Japanese government as it foresees its first loss in 59 years. GM said second-quarter production is initially set at 550,000 vehicles (including 355,000 trucks), which is down 34% from a year earlier. First-quarter production is expected to total 380,000, down 57% from a year ago.