In December, the total U.S. auto market was up 11 percent, which also happens to be the percentage increase for the year overall. Actually, though, the final month of 2010 was even stronger than the year-over-year comparison suggests. Although the full-year result for 2010 was roughly 11.6 million vehicles, the annualized sales rate every month during the fourth quarter was better than 12 million units, so the pace definitely picked up as we came down the back stretch. The annualized selling rate for December was 12.6 million units, the fastest clip of the year.
Rather than look at this December versus last December, this time we'll take the long view and do our analysis using full-year figures, the same as we did at this time last year. To get a handle on the difference between now and then, a year ago we were talking about which car companies did relatively OK but were declining less than the overall average of 21 percent. This time, anyone who is down for the year looks pathetic, and even those who post increases need to be up by 11 percent or better, lest they fall behind the pack.