2008 November Auto Sales

The frozen consumer credit markets all but shut down auto sales in October, and despite Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's dumping of hundreds of billions of dollars into banks' coffers, lending did not ease significantly in November, so auto sales remained on ice. A second factor that might have dampened consumers' enthusiasm for new-car shopping is the fact that more than half a million Americans lost their jobs last month.

It's no surprise, then, that auto sales continued to flat-line. Adding considerably to the automotive gloom was the omnipresent background noise caused by the Detroit Three auto chiefs begging Congress for emergency loans. That makes it seem like Detroit alone is in the ditch, but as far as November goes, the American automakers have got plenty of company:

(all figures compare November 2008 sales with November 2007)
Chrysler -47%
GM -41%
Ford -31%
Toyota -34%
Nissan -42%
Honda -32%
Mazda -31%
Hyundai/Kia -39%
Volkswagen Group -22%
BMW Group (including Mini) -27%
Mercedes-Benz (including Smart) -30%

One thing that was clear in all the chatter about Detroit's dire straits is that America's automakers would not be in their current predicament if they were only willing to make the small, fuel-efficient cars Americans want. The problem with that analysis is that, in November at least, with gas prices drifting below $2 a gallon, Americans didn't really want small, fuel-efficient cars anymore.

A look at the 10 best-selling models in November reveals a far more traditional lineup than the topsy-turvy world of last May, when Americans all but left their SUVs idling by the side of the road as they ran to dealerships demanding something - anything - that would rescue them from the pain of $100 fill-ups:

May 2008

  1. Honda Civic
  2. Toyota Corolla/Matrix
  3. Toyota Camry
  4. Honda Accord
  5. Ford F-series
  6. Chevrolet Silverado
  7. Nissan Altima
  8. Ford Focus
  9. Chevrolet Cobalt
  10. Chevrolet Impala

November 2008

  1. Ford F-series
  2. Chevrolet Silverado
  3. Toyota Camry
  4. Toyota Corolla/Matrix
  5. Honda Civic
  6. Honda Accord
  7. Dodge Ram
  8. Chevrolet Impala
  9. Honda CR-V
  10. Nissan Altima

It may surprise many media pundits to see how sales of the fuel-efficient favorites from the fervid, $4-a-gallon days last spring and summer have swooned in November. (And these drops are versus one year ago; they'd be much steeper compared to the inflated levels of May and June.)

Toyota Prius -48% (the gold standard stumbles)
Toyota Corolla/Matrix -13%
Toyota Yaris -17%
Scion (all) -45%
Honda Civic -30%
Honda Fit -8%
VW Rabbit -44%
Nissan Versa -18%
Nissan Sentra -39%
Ford Focus -38%
Chevrolet Aveo -36%
Chevrolet Cobalt -54%
Pontiac Vibe -14%
Kia Spectra -33%
Hyundai Accent -11%

Where's the bright spot? There is one - one pinpoint of sunshine in an otherwise leaden gray sky. The single, smiley-faced bright spot was Mini. Mini (+43%) was the lone nameplate whose November sales were ahead of last year's. Although Mini was aided by the addition of the Clubman, posting any kind of sales increase in this environment has got to be considered an accomplishment.

[Source: Automotive News]

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