Pete Kendall's Socio Times: A Socionomic Commentary

June 4, 2008
SUV Sales Run           Out of Gas
Demand for the huge autos drops in May
U.S. sales results released Tuesday showed cars outselling gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs by almost 200,000 in May -- the biggest margin since 1996.

GM in May saw a 37% decline in light truck and SUV sales and its share of the overall US market dropped below 20%, a new low for the automotive giant. General Motors posted a sales drop of about 27% from a year earlier and said it would close four truck plants, prepare its Hummer brand for a possible sale and focus on making smaller cars. Chrysler's 25.4% sales decline put it behind Honda in monthly sales for the first time.

And, after 17 years, Ford's F-Series trucks were dethroned from the top sales position, falling to No. 5 behind the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

"I think it's a watershed moment," said Jim Farley, head of marketing at Ford.

For the month, overall vehicle sales in the U.S. were 1.4 million, down 8.4% from a year earlier, according to Autodata Corp. Based on the May sales rate, the industry is on pace to sell just 14.3 million vehicles this year in the U.S. In 2007, total sales were 16.1 million.

For nearly a decade, Americans bought more light trucks -- a segment that includes pickups, SUVs and minivans -- than cars. But starting in March, cars edged ahead. The gap widened in April, and in May, 193,559 more cars than light trucks were sold.
Los Angeles Times

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Over the Top: SUV Plunge Marks New Bear Phase
By: Pete Kendall, June 4, 2008

The end of the rage for Hummers is an even more urgent signal than the anti-SUV sentiments of 2000. Meanwhile, small cars are growing in popularity. The trend suggests an even stronger “turn away from the image of prosperity” than the one that EWFF identified at the peak in 2000.
Sociotimes, May 16, 2006

hummmmerIt’s taken a while to sink in, but slowly but surely the bear market is assuming control of the auto industry just as it did as the bear market grabbed hold in 2000 and just as it has throughout history. The socionomic dynamics and the persistence of a “bubble for SUV’s” at the end of the long bull market were fully discussed by Mark Galasiewski in a two-part study for The Elliott Wave Theorist, “Social Mood and Automobile Stylings,” in the summer of 2006. Of the Hummer and the role of the SUV at the end of great bull market, for instance, Galasiewski had this to say:
• The AM General Hummer , a civilian version of the U.S. military’s M998 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or “Hum-vee”), was the archetype of late 20th century consumer extravagance. Its heavy weight, high cost and poor fuel efficiency epitomized excess, its military pedigree, tank-like paneling, and complex grille projected muscularity and vigor, and its boxy angularity exuded manly decisiveness. The 1991 Hummer quickly attracted the attention of such bull market icons as the CEO of Coca-Cola at the time (who purchased the first 15) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who reportedly purchased the first two Limited Edition versions and now owns eight Hummers in all). General Motors, attracted by the Hummer’s $20,000 per-vehicle profit margin, purchased the brand in late 1999—just in time for the end of the major bull market. The 2000 peak in the stock market will probably mark the end of the suv expansion era as well (for this cycle, at least). Production of the largest suv ever, the Ford Excursion, began in that same year. In 2005 Ford eliminated the Excursion, and last month (June 2006) GM joined the downsizing trend as it stopped production of the Hummer H1, the largest of the Hummer models.

May’s collapse in SUV and light truck sales is a sure sign that the bear market is gaining steam and assuming concrete form within the culture at large. As Ford’s head of marketing notes, it really is a “watershed moment.” But it didn’t just happen. It’s been building across the breadth of the culture for a long time. That’s one of the reason we initiated Socio Times back in 2005, to track the myriad ways in which social mood was transitioning social life from up to down. From "Mr. Housing Bubble"  back in August 2005 to Mr. Bill just yesterday, we’ve tracked the move in the headlines on a day-to-day basis. Much of the time, it’s been as entertaining as it has been informative. It’s amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come since August 2005 when “nothing down” mortgages were being used to secure 40% of home purchases in some areas and underwriting was described as “extremely undisciplined.” What’s even more amazing is how much further there is to go. The now plunging SUV market illustrates that in many areas the reality of a bear market is still just dawning.

Everyone blames the move back to sedans on gas prices, but gas prices have been on the rise for years. Why, after a decade of paying a premium to charge down the road guzzling gas, are car buyers suddenly opting for fuel efficiency? The reason is that social mood turned down, just as did in 2000 when there was a smaller societal repudiation of the SUV. With the corner turned, confirming headlines will come faster and more furiously than we could ever hope to keep up. So, this is the last SocioTimes, but the archive will stand for future reference. Subscribers still get our take on the culture in monthly issues of EWFF and EWT. I will also post occasional references on elliottwave.com’s main page and at Socionomics.net. We greatly appreciate the news items and insights many of you have submitted over the years. Feel free to keep them coming by using the “CONTRIBUTE” button above as we will continue to measure and illuminate the full impact of social mood in the months and years ahead.

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June 13, 2008
SocioTimes Page Closes, But Updates Continue
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June 4, 2008
Over the Top: SUV Plunge Marks New Bear Phase
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June 3, 2008
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May 9, 2008
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April 2, 2008
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I vote for continuing Socio Times. I also have been greatly missing the articles that poke fun at these events. I for one have greatly enjoyed and benefited from Socionomics as well as EWFF and EWT. Much thanks for your help.
Posted by: James
June 4, 2008 03:24 PM

I have been very pleased and informed by your SocioTimes articles. Living out of the US I miss much of the "news" and I will really miss these timely discussions of the headlines. However I am glad some of them will be noted in the Theorist.
Posted by: E PARKER
June 4, 2008 03:24 PM

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