International car carriers had a slow go of it in January, as both imports and exports of cars fell in the US. Imports fell 8.1% from December and exports fell 5.7%. Both numbers were well up from January 2009 levels. Much of the decline can be traced to a general lack of trade during the winter months, but imports were hit harder than exports. Overall, the trade deficit shrunk in January,
That decline in imports is likely not a Toyota recall factor; shipments of cars take weeks to go across the Pacific, so the ships that docked on the West Coast with cars from Asia during the month had set sail before stuff had hit the fan for Toyota. Slow-steaming might have been a factor, as that practice might have had cars moving across the Pacific doing so at more of a crawl, such that cars that might have arrived here already in the past were still en route under slow steaming.
However, other factors might have contributed as well. An increased strength in Ford and GM along with stronger sales for cars built in the US from foreign car makers could have had people buying local more than in the past. That will be good news for domestic car haulers, since there will be more cars picked up at the plant rather than intermodaled away onto autoracks at portside.
February’s numbers will start to include the Toyota impact, but this news seems to be good news for domestic car makers even before factoring that in.