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mick silver
19th November 2008, 20:11
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Gleaming new Mercedes cars roll one by one out of a huge container ship here and onto a pier. Ordinarily the cars would be loaded on trucks within hours, destined for dealerships around the country. But these are not ordinary times.

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For now, the port itself is the destination. Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars are being warehoused on increasingly crowded port property.

And for the first time, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Nissan have each asked to lease space from the port for these orphan vehicles. They are turning dozens of acres of the nation’s second-largest container port into a parking lot, creating a vivid picture of a paralyzed auto business and an economy in peril.

“This is one way to look at the economy,” Art Wong, a spokesman for the port, said of the cars. “And it scares you to death.”

The backlog at the port is just part of a broader rise in the nation’s inventories, which were up 5.5 percent in September from a year earlier, according to the Commerce Department. The car industry has been hurt particularly, with sales down nearly 15 percent this year. General Motors has said it would run out of operating cash by the end of the year if it does not receive a government bailout.

But the inventory glut in Long Beach is not limited to imported cars. There has also been a sharp drop in demand for the port’s single largest export: recycled cardboard and paper products.

This material typically goes to China, where it is used to make boxes for new electronics and other products that are sent back to the United States. But Chinese factories reacting to sharply falling demand are slowing production, so they need less cardboard. Tons of paper are piling up recycling businesses around the port, the detritus of economies on hold.

Long Beach is an important port, particularly for the West. It is where imported products arrive and filter through the tributary of trucks, trains and retailers into the hands of consumers. But now, products are just sitting.

“We’re supposed to move things, not store them,” Mr. Wong said.

Roughly 20 percent of the nation’s container imports last year came through Long Beach, putting it close behind the largest container port, Los Angeles. This year, shipping volume at Long Beach is down 10 percent from 2007, and nearly all major ports around the country have seen similar declines. Veteran port workers say the slowdown since mid-October is like nothing they have ever seen. And it is having a cascading impact on other businesses and workers.

In the 150-acre terminal where Toyotas are unloaded, there is a sea of Corollas, Camrys and RAV4s. The mere presence of so many cars is not unusual, given that Toyota brings in 250,000 cars a year in biweekly shipments. But in a sign that something is amiss, dozens of tractor-trailers that transport new cars to dealers sat empty last week amid the rows of Toyotas.

Kurt Golledge, 48, was one of just two truckers loading his green, 75-foot-long hauler with cars last week. Mr. Golledge said eight of his colleagues were laid off this month because Toyota dealers did not want more deliveries.

“I was dropping cars in Henderson, Nev., about a month ago and the dealer told me: ‘Take ’em somewhere else and dump ’em,’ ” said Mr. Golledge, who works for a company called Allied Systems. “All the dealers are telling us the same thing.”

Auto dealers typically place orders with manufacturers months in advance, but they can modify their orders to receive fewer vehicles.

“The ships keep coming, but there’s nowhere for the cars to go,” Mr. Golledge said. He said he believed the vehicles he was loading would be his last before he was laid off, and he was already considering where he might find a new job.

While shipments for some items have slowed, the cars have kept coming in at their regular pace partly because the auto factories can take months to adjust to changes in demand. Toyota is wrapping up a deal to use six acres to park cars at the port, and is seeking more space.

“Toyota wants as much as we can give them,” said Gail Wasil, assistant director of the port’s real estate division.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/business/economy/19ports.html?_r=2&em

averagejoe
19th November 2008, 22:24
The ripple effect is going to be devastating for millions of Americans, we haven't even begun to see the ramifications of this mess yet. People pay off your debts, store up some food and spend as little as possible because this is going to be one ugly ride!

mick silver
19th November 2008, 23:32
For six months i have been hammering this into family now they see the light , they stocking up food an ammo and stuff that well help in hard times , today i went and got two country hams , just hang them up in the garage , look for meats now for long term store

Richard
1st December 2008, 08:56
Like someone just hit the off button to the economic machinery, and yet it's only buyers for all that stuff that are missing. The economy is fine, apparently... it's the damn money that has made buying sick!