2009 December Auto Sales - Special Year-End Edition!

For all the happy talk this year about Ford, America's favorite not-bankrupt auto company, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Ford sold 16% fewer cars in 2009 than in its not-so-great 2008. Nonetheless, the company's financial solvency (not to be confused with financial health) allowed it to bask in the warm glow of approval from a public disgusted with other industrial giants hitting it up for cash. December 2009 looked particularly strong, with an increase over a miserable December 2008 of 33%, equal to white-hot Subaru but on much larger volumes. Even with its full-year sales decline, Ford was able to win market share for the first time in years, and new products due in 2010 may allow it to extend those gains.

Mercedes-Benz and Smart finished the year just slightly better than the industry average 21% decline and - perhaps more important given the intense rivalry - just slightly better than the BMW Group. December sales were flat versus the year prior.

Honda and Nissan, two major Cash-for-Clunkers beneficiaries, saw equal declines this year. Both companies were dragged down somewhat by their luxury brands, Acura (off 27%) and Infiniti (dropping 28%). Honda's performance, though, was still better than average and was easily enough to blow past faltering Chrysler to move into fourth place in the industry, while Nissan remains unchanged in the number-six spot. Both companies finished the year with better-than-average gains in December.

BMW and Toyota's bad 2009 was just slightly less bad than the industry average. BMW was helped out a bit by Mini, and Toyota got a hand from Lexus - but not Scion. Toyota's decline comes despite a Cash-for-Clunkers-fueled bonanza this summer (its Corolla was the most popular government-incentivized purchase). BMW finished the year with a relative whimper, a 9% gain (weaker than the industry average 15%), while Toyota powered to a 32% increase for the year's final month.

The following automakers are the ones who would most like to put 2009 far behind them:

MAZDA -21%
Mazda's 21% sales decline exactly matched the overall market. But Mazda fell behind the pack in December, squeaking out only a 2% increase for the month where the industry as a whole posted a 15% gain.

Porsche's bad year ended on a bad note, a 2% decline in December versus the year prior. And that's with the addition of the Panamera to the lineup.

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