Light truck sales set a new record for the month when they jumped by 7.0% in January to 583,082 from 544,978. That tends to make a mockery of our forecast which is for a sales decline in 2000, but we are not yet prepared to change our minds about sales dropping to 7.7 million this year and then easing back to 7.8 million in 2001. The reason that we are standing by our figures is that the sector is clearly being manufacturer driven, and that rarely spells out sustained improvements. True there have been occasions when the feel-good factor has been so forcibly thrust upon a population that eventually they believe it and take up the reins themselves, but we don’t believe that will happen in this case.

Sales have grown so consistently throughout the entire period covered by the chart that it would not be difficult to believe that the straight line can just keep rising, but if that were likely to happen, we don’t believe that manufacturers would be throwing the money at sales that they are at present.

The GM Group stole a march on the Ford Group in January and outsold their main rivals by 6,000 units. Whilst the Ford Group suffered a 2.4% decline in sales to 169,287 from 173,404, the GM Group saw sales leap by 17.2% to 175,224 from 149,540, overturning a 24,000 unit deficit in the process. The Ford decline occurred despite some juicy cash-back offers on six of their products, but GM is going the whole hog. Chevrolet, for example, has nine models on offer in the light truck sector, and eight of them have either cash-back or low finance offers. GMC has at least six models that are being propped up by incentives. With most of the other players in the field also easing the way for their customers with offers of sometimes relative and sometimes extreme generosity, it is not so surprising that sales continue to rise. But when the natural downturn does come, it will come with avengeance.

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