Automakers and dealers greeted the New Year with relief, as 2008, which saw overall sales plunge 18 percent, finally drew to a close. Unfortunately, before the industry could begin to contemplate a recovery from its worse year since 1992, 2008 got its final revenge in the form of plunging December sales. Overall sales, unadjusted for business days, were down 35.5 percent from December 2007. International sales were down 12 percent year to date. Despite a rise in average incentives to $2,902 per vehicle in December, the month was still the fourth-straight in which sales tumbled more than 25 percent.
International Makes Retain Market Share Majority
According to numbers from Autodata Corp., international makes, more than half of which are assembled in North America, made up 50.7 percent of December’s market share with 454,088 vehicles. Year to date, international nameplates held 52.4 percent of the market. Of the international makes, Toyota held the greatest share percentage with 16.7 percent.
Top Selling Vehicles Hold Steady
In December, international vehicles held five of the top 10 slots in the list of best selling cars. This is fairly consistent for the year, with the Toyota Camry and Corolla, and the Honda Civic and Accord holding their places on the list throughout 2008. The Nissan Altima made the Top 10 list 10 of the 12 months. Only twice in 2008 did international makes top the list: in May and June when fuel costs were spiraling upward and consumers began their transition to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.
Trucks vs. Cars
Over the past 12 months international makes soundly beat the Detroit Three when it came to car sales. In December, 123,179 more international cars were sold. But domestic manufacturers hold the lead when it comes to light truck sales, selling 111,127 more than internationals in December. During the past year, international manufacturers became known for their smaller, fuel efficient vehicles while their domestic counterparts remained the leaders of truck sales. With low sales and rising gas prices expected in 2009, it will be interesting to see if consumers continue their move toward fuel efficient cars in the New Year.
Sales forecasts at the beginning of 2008 were estimated to be approximately 15-16 million with analysts from J.D. Power lowering their expectations in July to sales around 14.2 million. In the end, 2009 doesn’t look like it will be any better with the sluggish economy moving slowly through its recession.
See below for a complete breakdown of December 2008 monthly and year-to-date sales by international nameplate.