Overall Sales Fall 41 Percent
If February 2009 proved anything, it is that the auto retail industry has yet to hit bottom. With sales at a 27-year low, there is still no recovery in sight. Carmakers saw their U.S. sales drop by an average of 41 percent, and just three makes, all international brands, had positive news to report, including Subaru, whose sales rose 1.4 percent over February 2008.
International manufacturers were, on average, down 33 percent in February, the 16th straight in which sales tumbled from the previous year. Despite an average incentive of $2,914 per vehicle in February, in some cases up to 20 percent of the sticker prices, consumers were unmoved and stayed away in droves.
International Brands Grow Market Share
According to numbers from Autodata Corp., international makes made up 56.5 percent of February’s market share with 383,707 sales, up slightly from 377,445 in January. Asian brands specifically claim 47.3 percent and Europeans have 8.4 percent of the market. These numbers are a significant increase from a year ago where Asian brands held only 41.8 percent and Europeans held 7 percent.
Of the international makes, Toyota held the greatest share percentage with 14 percent, despite the fact that their sales were down 40 percent from one year ago. Toyota is facing its first loss in 59 years.
Top Selling Vehicles Hold Steady
The list of top selling vehicles in the U.S. remained fairly consistent over January of this year. The vehicles that make up the chart were all in the top 10 last month. One vehicle to note that didn’t make the list but landed in place 15 is the Hyundai Elantra which sold 8,978 vehicles, a 33 percent increase over February of last year. International makes continue to occupy six of the top 10 spots.
Trucks vs. Cars
In the first month of 2009, consumers continued the trend of choosing cars over trucks. In a nation known for its love affair with the pickup, it is worth noting that Asian car sales are closing in on the number of trucks sold by the Detroit Three. This month alone domestic truck sales are down nearly 99,000 vehicles over December 2008 or over 150,000 vehicles from January 2008. If this pattern remains steady Asian car sales will soon surpass Detroit Three trucks sales.
February car sales continued to trend upward, indicating that they could soon overtake truck sales in the U.S. A total of 341,855 cars were sold for the month of February, an increase of 25,992 vehicles over the past month. In the light truck category, 346,054 were sold in February, marking a 4,941 decline in sales from January. Asian light truck sales remained steady from January with a three vehicle increase for February. This is a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy sales report that saw all other categories decline.
February marked the lowest annualized auto sales rate (9.12 million vehicles) since December 1981. Adjusted for population growth, it would be the lowest rate since the 1960s. The weak sales are rooted, in part, in consumer confidence, which is at its lowest point since the factor was first measured by the Conference Board in 1967. Falling used car sales and weak sales by the normally resilient Asian manufacturers all seem to indicate a bleak first half for 2009.
See below for a complete breakdown of February 2009 monthly and year-to-date sales by international nameplate.