What’s buggin’ me?

Jul 1, 2010

I’ve been writing about the rising good news in the auto industry for most of this year. Automakers, including taxpayer-braced, “Old”/”New,” marketing-disheveled GM, keep reporting how well their sales – U.S. and otherwise, but especially U.S. – improved not just month over month from year-ago numbers, but practically month over month since January. There are exceptions, but car, trucks and smaller SUVs/crossovers are finding their ways off dealership lots and into the driveways and garages of consumers and fleet, commercial and municipal operators.

Even as the Dow’s stock readings sometimes look like the most erratic heartbeat you might see, even as BP teeters on the edge of breakdown and potential criminal charges over its catastrophic Gulf oil spew, even as unemployment creeps up, down, up, down, vehicles, foreign and domestic brands, are selling.

Add to the mix shifting predictions in auto sales by such vehicle information research operators as the oft-quoted Edmunds.com, which one month says sales will be bad, say in May after a solid April, and then reports – as if it never said otherwise – that May sales were actually pretty good and that will raise the average yearly sales even higher than earlier advocated. So, is it good or bad, deal or no deal?

It gives me pause to think, What’s going on? How real is this sales revival? Is the economy doing as well – even if it’s just so-so well – as is being reported?

Journalists possess a somewhat skeptical, no-nonsense nature, as if they’re all from Missouri – you know, the “Show-Me” state. But we keep being shown that things are improving, will continue to improve overall and that that’s what we should be looking toward. At the least, it’s a nice self-fulfilling prophecy.

So why does all the good news nag at me? It shouldn’t. In this business we like to look for the upside, show our readers what vehicles and associated products look to be winners that could boost sales. And we’re obliged to help you keep a thumb on the pulse of the aftermarket restyling industry.

After all, suppliers tell me they’re nowadays more excited – and genuinely so – about new vehicle designs and the aftermarket products they’re designing for them. I even see more advertisers signing on more with us, which means they’re more comfortable, more confident, more bold, even, with doing more to get their message out to shops that can use their products (and, boy, does that boost everyone’s spirits when they “strut their stuff” like that).

Economists point to the growth of new home sales, rising employment numbers, consumer confidence, manufacturing and gross domestic product (GDP) that comprise some of the important good economic indicators. We have a glut of homes on the market but new home construction has begun to move. Unemployment still teeters near 10%, but more people are being hired – and if manufacturing is up and we’re producing more, even more people will have to be hired. Consumer confidence has grown sharply since March (evidenced in part by vehicle sales) as consumers start to spend again. Yet, though the U.S GDP inches up (up is always good with GDP), many businesses and municipal entities continue to prove thrifty in their spending.

So, companies remain thrifty, but show conviction enough to develop new products and expand their advertising efforts. Consumers are spending again and the U.S. economy is growing, but the unemployment rate’s needle moves little. The Dow acts erratically but people continue to invest, even though my own IRAs and 401K remain anemic.

The economic news seems all over the board; and not being an economist, being just a regular working guy, I’m having a harder time understanding it all -” even when I’m told the overall news is good.

I’m not from the Show-Me state, but I want to see all the economic indicators line up on the same side. The news is good – but I want it to be better.

Maybe that’s what’s bugging me. Anyone else feel that way?