Auto slump continues: Major automakers’ U.S. sales continued their deep slump in February, putting the industry on track for its worst sales month in more than 27 years as huge rebates and low-interest financing failed to spur fearful consumers to make a major purchase. Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales fell 48% from a year earlier, while Toyota Motor Corp. posted a 40% drop, proving that massive layoffs, the stock market decline and sliding home values are prompting people to hold on to their cars longer. Automakers and analysts have been predicting sales will rebound in the second half of this year, but they are becoming less certain.
Tough times, less generosity: Forty-five percent of businesses surveyed in a new poll say they have implemented a reduction in their corporate giving budget this year, and 16% are considering a cut. The Conference Board study of 158 businesses found that the biggest challenge for corporate donations this year would be dealing with an increase in requests, followed by inadequate financial resources and a decline in their foundation endowment. Arts and cultural events are expected to see a 34% drop in corporate donations, while gifts for environment, sustainability and climate change causes is expected to increase by 40%.
Funeral provider streamlines: Stewart Enterprises is eliminating the positions of eastern and western division presidents in order to improve efficiencies for the funeral operator. The company, which is based in suburban New Orleans, says the move will allow it to focus on developing new revenue opportunities and improve communications. Four years ago, Stewart went from four divisions to two. Brent F. Heffron, eastern division president, is set to retire in April after 17 years with Stewart. Kenneth Stephens Jr., western division president, will become senior vice president of sales.