December Auto Sales Continue The Industry’s Woes

By Chris Haak


Today, the December 2008 sales results were released, and they continued the pattern that has been set during most of 2008.  They were ugly.

Of the six major makes sold in the US – GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan – each of them saw sales declines of at least 30%.  In poor Chrysler’s case, the drop was a staggering 53% against the December 2007 rate.  Here’s the carnage:

GM:  Down 31%
Ford:  Down 32%
Chrysler:  Down 53%
Toyota:  Down 37%
Honda:  Down 35%
Nissan:  Down 31%

Overall industry sales in December 2008 versus December 2007 were down about 36%, and the industry’s final 2008 results weren’t much better, with industry sales declining by about 19%, which represents the worst new auto sales year since 1992.

In spite of the carnage, there actually were a [very] few bright spots.  For one, December sales actually were slightly better than November and October sales.  For another, Subaru and Mini actually both pulled off sales increases in 2008 over their 2007 totals (Subaru was up 0.3%, which represented 491 additional cars sold, while Mini was up a whopping 29% for 2008 (representing an additional 12,032 cars sold) as consumers flocked to the brand earlier in 2008 amid fuel price concerns and the appeal of a premium small car.

BMW’s news wasn’t so pretty, however; overall BMW Group (BMW and Mini combined) saw sales fall 36% in December, with a 9.7% decline for the year.  Other annual results for major manufacturers:

GM:  Down 23%
Ford:  Down 22%
Chrysler:  Down 30%
Toyota:  Down 15%
Honda:  Down 8%
Nissan:  Down 11%

Chrysler’s decline is obviously troubling, as its December 2008 sales pace is probably not enough to sustain Chrysler as a going concern.  The company has already done a great deal of downsizing and reducing factory capacity (and cut its fleet sales considerably in 2008), but this was not a good month for Mopar fans.  You know your company had a bad sales month when the press release has mostly comparisons against November 2008 results instead of the previous December.  I suppose that at least their sales have trended slightly upward from November, though there’s a reason – seasonal variability – why same-month periods over different years are compared and not against the previous month.

Nobody knows quite where the bottom will be, but chances are, the auto industry in the US in December 2009 will look considerably different than it did in December 2008 – for better or worse.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. And cars outsold trucks in 2008 for the first time in eight years. That’s something new.

  2. Thanks, It matters – I should have also mentioned that cars outsold trucks for the first time in a long time. That is also big news.

  3. Assuming a Chrysler/GM union would meet the same fate as the notorious marriage of Studebaker/Packard (something about two ‘wrongs’ not making a ‘right’), anyone holding out hope that someone like Nissan/Renault might swoop down and buy Chrysler? As a Volkswagen owner (and former Chrysler guy),I’d love to see VW buy the Chrysler mini van operations at least, but VW may be extending itself too far. As a Tennessee resident, I’m delighted VW is building the new plant in Chattanooga–but I’d hate to see them over extend themselves. Is there any realistic hope of a ‘healthy’ buyer for Chrysler?

  4. Bill Dorian, add to the list British Leyland a conglomerate, born itself from the merger of BMC (British Motors corporation, born from the merger of old rivals Austin and Morris) and Leyland motors, uniting Jaguar, Morris, Austin, Rover, Riley, Woolesley,etc…under the same roof. Another note is we could wonder what if Packard had decided to go with Nash instead of Studebaker, if things could had been different?

    As for the VW upcoming Tennessee plant, the ceremony of the groundbreaking plant had been delayed let’s hope it’s not a bad omen of things to come for VW. On a off-topic note, the Porsche family raises their stakes of VW to 50%

    As for Renault-Nissan, I guess Carlos Ghosn wait a bit before he’ll play his next card, checking carefully the situation at GM and Chrysler before he decide who’ll be the 3rd partner.

    and more bad news on the table 🙁

  5. Toyota and Honda are down more than GM/Ford. You’d think someone would be making a bigger deal of this, considering how long these guys have walked on water in the eyes of the media.

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