The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) has slipped another 300 points, or 1.91%, by midafternoon after new numbers showed U.S. manufacturing activity slowed down last month. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index dropped to 51.3 in January from 56.5 in December. That hovers just above the 50 mark that divides expanding activity from contraction. Many analysts cited adverse weather in January as impacting the manufacturing and business figures. The weather certainly seems to be behind some rough numbers from the automotive industry.
Ford (NYSE: F ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM ) posted figures showing that respective January sales in the U.S. declined 7% and 12% from the same month last year. Sales of Ford's three most popular vehicles, the F-Series, Fusion, and Escape, declined 0.7%, 7%, and 2%, respectively.
"Given the difficult weather in our largest sales regions, we are fortunate to have held in at retail as well as we did," John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales, and service, said in a press release. "In areas where the weather was good, such as in the West, sales were up. The poor weather also had an impact on the timing of some of our fleet deliveries."
Chrysler was the only Detroit automaker to post an increase in sales for January. Chrysler Group sold more than 127,000 vehicles in January, which was an 8% improvement from last year. That still checks in behind Ford and General Motors' sales totals of 153,494 and 171,486 in the U.S. market, respectively. Nissan led the industry for January, in terms of year-over-year comparisons, with a 12% gain to 90,470 vehicles sold last month. Toyota reported a 7% decline in January sales as well, with units down to 146,365.
On a positive note for the industry, analysts expect sales to catch up in coming months, weather permitting. Furthermore, TrueCar estimated that the average transaction price on vehicles in the U.S. rose 2.7% in January while incentives declined 3% -- making for a healthier first-quarter profit if the trend continues.
In other automotive news, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) proved it's beginning to overcome consumers' "range anxiety" by completing a 76-hour, cross-country trip in its popular Model S electric vehicle. It should be noted that currently you don't have too many options for a cross-country trip; however, compare the next two images to better understand how quickly one of Tesla's supercharger stations could be coming to an area near you by 2015.
Tesla has 73 stations today, and by the end of this year 80% of the U.S. population and parts of Canada should have access to a supercharger station that can provide half of a full battery charge in as little as 20 minutes. Tesla plans to cover 98% of the U.S. population by the end of 2015, which will set the stage for a mass produced, and drastically more affordable, Tesla vehicle.
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