Fun With Statistics

A central tenet of the argument against GM, Chrysler, and Ford is that “they haven’t been making the fuel efficient cars that people want”. This argument always ran headfirst into reality, that light trucks are the best selling models for GM and Ford respectively and with regard to Chrysler, the government’s shotgun marriage with Fiat, a marriage that will pair up leader in low quality among U.S. manufacturers with Europe’s lowest quality manufacturer of cars, will result in a duo that features Fiat’s cars and Chrysler’s trucks and SUVs, suggesting that these companies (and by extension the government) know exactly what people want.

If April’s sales statistics are included we see another interesting data point in this argument, with truck and SUV sales doing materially better than cars across all manufacturers in the U.S. market. Ford and GM saw declines of 32% and 33% respectively while halo manufacturer Toyota saw a whopping 42% decline… yet I can assure you that we will not hear any politician or pundit talking about Toyota clearly not making the kinds of cars that the public wants.

Toyota’s once mighty Prius is in a sales free fall, declining 62% from the same period a year ago and even their mainstay Camry is lagging, declining 37%.

What does all this mean? In the final equation probably just that you should discount anyone who says “it’s factor x or y” when in fact the U.S. car and truck market is very complex with significant regional and demographic considerations. Greeniacs and CAFE groupies like to revel in fuel mileage claims as a big driver of new vehicle sales even though the data doesn’t support their arguments (and GM has better fuel economy across their fleet of models than Toyota does, another inconvenient fact).