Weekly News Review | 16 July 2018 | Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain Automotive Purchasing and Supply Chain

Talking Point

Good news is hard to find these days

I’m writing this week’s column in a country beset with gloom. Yes, it’s the day after the England football team was eliminated from the World Cup, beaten 2-1 by Croatia in the semi-final. You’d think the end of the world was nigh. It’s perhaps easy for an Irishman to say, although I was disappointed by the result, but, come on folks, it’s only a football match, in a tournament in which virtually no-one gave the England team the ghost of a chance of progressing as far as it did.

There’s an old saying, “it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Not to be confused with the phrase attributed to the famous English conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, who referred to the notoriously difficult-to-play French horn as “the wind that nobody blows good.” There’s always somebody who benefits from other people’s pain.

Amidst the turmoil in the automotive world created by US President Donald Trump’s threat to increase tariffs on imported vehicles, the winners - so far - seem to be the major American vehicle importing ports. According to the latest figures to be released, those for May, the three leading vehicle-handling ports on America’s eastern seaboard are all doing brisk business. Baltimore, Maryland, Jacksonville, Florida and Brunswick, Georgia are reporting significantly increased traffic. The three ports combined received 23,000 more cars in May than they did a year earlier as manufacturers rushed to pre-empt the higher tariffs. Vehicle exports from Baltimore and Jacksonville increased by 39% and 19% respectively.

Unfortunately, the surge in imports has not been reflected in higher sales. US sales of European and Japanese brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are, at best, static. Somewhere, there are an awful lot of vehicles waiting for buyers. And, of course, this is a temporary phenomenon. If and when Trump’s tariffs come into force, the rush to make hay while the sun shines will end. Analysts’ forecasts of US domestic car sales this year were gloomy even before the threat of higher tariffs. The increased sticker prices on imported cars which such measures will lead to will surely cause many US consumers to turn to American-made vehicles instead. Bad news for the ports and the shipping lines, but isn’t that what Trump wanted in the first place? Like the man said, “it’s an ill wind...”

Sam Ogle

Sam Ogle

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