2009 February Auto Sales: Going Nowhere Fast

March 13, 2009
0903 01 Z+2009 Smart ForTwo+front Three Quarter View
As the breadth and severity of the Wall-Street-created recession continue to intensify, it's no surprise that auto sales remain flat. Although the figures are a tiny bit better than January's, which is a typical pattern, they're still more than 40 percent lower than a year ago. Once again, the pain is widespread, with the domestic brands suffering a bit more than most imports:
Feb '09 vs. Feb '08
Smart +29%
Subaru +1%
Kia +0%
Hyundai -2%
Rolls-Royce -3% (36 cars versus 37 last year)
Porsche -11%
Mini -17%
VW -17%
Lamborghini -17% (estimated)
Lotus -18% (estimated)
Maybach -20% (8 cars versus 10 last year)
Mercedes-Benz -23%
Jaguar -29% (estimated)
Land Rover -29% (estimated)
Audi -29%
Mazda -30%
Jeep -32%
Ferrari -33%
Infiniti -37%
Nissan -37%
BMW -38%
Honda -38%
Lexus -38%
Toyota -39%
Dodge -39%
Lincoln -41%
Pontiac -41%
Acura -41%
Mercury -45%
Ford -49%
Buick -51%
Cadillac -51%
Mitsubishi -51%
GMC -52%
Volvo -55%
Chevrolet -55%
Saturn -57%
Scion -58%
Saab -59%
Suzuki -60%
Chrysler -63%
Hummer -69%
Bentley -70%
Maserati -71%
0903 02 Z+2009 Hyundai Accent+front Three Quarter View
What's Up (and is it a blip or a trend)?
Some nameplates sold better in February than they did a year ago, but in each case we'll also check the January-February combined sales (in parenthesis) to see if they did a sudden reversal or if they're on a 2-month winning streak.
Hyundai Accent +30% (up)
Hyundai Elantra +33% (flat)
Hyundai Entourage +355% (up, nearly 3x!)
Kia Amanti +639% (up, more than 4x!)
Kia Sedona +153% (up, nearly 2x!)
Kia Sorrento +228% (up, nearly 3x!)
Hyundai's Lose-Your-Job-We'll-Buy-Back-the-Car program seems to be striking a chord, while Kia is enjoying success by turning on a fire hose of incentive money.
New redesigns
Porsche Boxster +127% (up)
Nissan 370Z +33% (up)
Lots of redesigned models are selling worse than their predecessors, but the Boxster and the Z have enthusiasts reaching for their wallets.
Sudden reversals
Mercury Sable +36% (down)
Audi A5/S5 +29% (down)
Mercedes-Benz CLK +15% (down)
Mazda 5 +12% (down a bit)
Mercedes-Benz G-class +5 units (down)
Enjoying two good months in a row
Subaru Forester +101% (up, 2x!)
Saturn Astra +30% (up, 2x!)
Smart +29% (up)
Mitsubishi Raider +122% (up)
Infiniti FX +21% (up)
Nissan Rogue +6% (up)
0903 03 Z+2009 BMW 128i+front Three Quarter View
20 Comparables
With nearly everyone in the toilet, we thought it might be more interesting to look within brands and across competitors to seek out relative winners and losers among the greatly diminished overall sales landscape.
- The BMW 1-series might seem to be right for the times, but not only does the mainstay 3-series outsell it by a factor of six (6414 vs. 853), but the 5-series (3191) also beats it three to one.
- Chrysler is the minivan. The Town & Country (8099) outsells all other Chrysler vehicles combined (7420).
- If the Town & Country is Chrysler, the Wrangler is Jeep. It's far and away the best seller, nearly doubling the sales of the runner-up Grand Cherokee (9088 vs. 4725).
- Despite falling nearly 50 percent, the F-series (23,614) was still the bestselling nameplate in February.
- Maybe it's time to bring out cop-car and taxi versions of the Taurus (3290), which is barely able to stay ahead of the Crown Victoria (3272).
- The GLK is off to a strong start (1918), kicking the crap out of the BMW X3 (267), the Audi Q5 (627), and the Volvo XC60 (235, in its first month). It still can't touch the Lexus RX (6218), although that vehicle is probably more of a competitor to the larger, and slower selling, M-class (1353).
- The crown may not be as valuable as it once was, but the Escalade (1238) still easily surpasses the Lincoln Navigator (365) to remain the king of bling.
- The conventional-looking Traverse (6417) is handily beating Ford's Flex (2352), although price is certainly a factor too.
- The Buick Enclave (3366) has become more popular than either Buick sedan (LaCrosse, 1536 or Lucerne, 1289).
- The Mazda 5 minivan (2257), which was forced onto Mazda's U.S. management by Japan, is now outselling both Mazda SUVs, the CX-7 (1575) and the CX-9 (1651).
- Look who's the second-best-selling midsize: The Altima (16,002) snuck past the Honda Accord (15,976).
- For all the popularity of the Fit (4247), it's still a long way from the Civic (15,687).
- A tale of two redesigns: Last year's freshening helped the TSX hold its own (2293), but the TL is down 40% despite its redo (2490).
- The Mini Cooper (2826) better watch its mirrors because the Smart ForTwo (1415) is starting to catch up.
- In Scions battle of the boxes, the xB (1640) outsells the xD (856) by nearly two to one.
- Is Toyota building the wrong truck in Texas? The Tacoma (7874) is outselling the Tundra (5726).
- The Camry, mirroring the overall market with 41% decline, remains comfortably in place as America's bestselling car (20,634).
- And forget the Toyota versus General Motors sales race; the fact that Toyota division (92,775) outsold Chevrolet (75,025) and Ford (84,072) says far more.
- How is this possible? The New Beetle (1273) is outselling the Rabbit (666) two to one.
- Meanwhile, the CC (1808) has easily passed the Passat (972).


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