Friday, after the April vehicle sales figures rolled in, Associated Press reporters Kimberly S. Johnson and Dan Strumpf, in the opening sentence of a report carried at USA Today, showed that they finally noticed two things, one of which yours truly caught three months ago (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog), and the other which first became clear last month (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog).
The former point is that the American people are continuing to shun bailed-out car companies General Motors and now-bankrupt Chrysler. The latter one is that Ford's gain has been most the two bailed-out companies' loss.
Here is how the inconsistently-headlined ("Auto sales fall in April; Ford gains market share from Chrysler") AP report began (bolds are mine):
Detroit's Big Three is becoming Ford and the other two.
While its rivals stay afloat with billions in government aid, Ford grabbed a bigger slice of the American car market in April with record sales of its fuel-efficient Fusion. Those results pushed it past Toyota to retake its post as the nation's No. 2 car seller.
Even though Ford's monthly sales tumbled 32% from a year earlier, it captured 16% of the total market. Most of those gains came at the expense of General Motors and Chrysler, which unlike Ford are dependent on federal help.
The press, however, is missing or avoiding the irony that the two companies the government is bailing out are not only the ones that have the "worst" mix (from the so-called "green" point of view) of car vs. light truck sales, but are also the two which have their mixes going most decidedly in the "wrong" direction among the six largest car companies (source spreadsheet pictured here obtained from MotorIntelligence.com):
Yes, you're reading the above right. Chrysler is the eighth-largest car seller in the US, moving a pathetic 15,000-plus cars in April, fewer than both Hyundai and Kia.
Given enough government bailout money and enough engineering expertise from Fiat, it's conceivable that Chrysler and even GM could become mostly manufacturers of cars -- perhaps even at costs that might lead to profits in a future that seems far, far away.
But the two companies are fighting one other "little" problem: Enough of the American people to get noticed are abandoning them. That abandonment has essentially grown in sync with the ever-deepening level of government involvement and the extent of general knowledge about that involvement. If enough of the public ever understands the gist of what President Obama and his car czars attempted to impose, complete with alleged threats and intimidation, on Chrysler's secured lenders before bankruptcy, and will now attempt to impose during bankruptcy proceedings, the shunning may accelerate further.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.