June Auto Sales Wrap-up

As the summer of 2008 heats up, the U.S. consumer economy is moldering like an egg salad sandwich left out in the sun. If job losses, soaring food and fuel prices, and a stock market that’s sliding downhill have sapped consumer confidence, the unremitting banking crisis and resultant tight credit have all but stepped on the neck of the housing and new-car markets.

It’s not just that expensive gasoline (and diesel fuel) is choking off sales of big pickups and SUVs – although that’s certainly happening. A huge swath of the new-car market was bloodied in June. It’s so bad that we’re confining ourselves to talking only about nameplates that saw their sales cut in half, or worse. (Figures are versus June 2007. Source: Automotive News)

As everyone knows, pickup sales have tanked, with the vaunted Ford F-series having fallen last month from its seemingly permanent perch as the best-selling vehicle in the USA all the way to the number-five spot, where it remained in June. But although pickup sales are weak – and these figures don’t count the heavy-duty versions – only two full-size pickups are on our list of the truly hurting:


The Titan has always been a marginal player in this market, but the Tundra is the all-new-for-2007 biggie that everyone thought was going to slaughter the domestics. Evidently, stealing share from the U.S. big pickups isn’t as easy as expected. And, if the whole market continues its downhill slide, it may not be worth the bother.

Two mid-size pickups also make our list:

Mazda B-series –57% (increasingly pointless twin to the ancient Ford Ranger)

Yes, there’s blood on the floor in SUV showrooms across the land. It’s a long list of sport-utes that are down 50 percent or more. We’ll start with the faddish off-roaders:

Land Rover LR3 -73%
Jeep Commander -68%
-68% (doesn’t anyone mountain bike any more?)
Toyota FJ Cruiser –62% (fading surprisingly fast)
Hummer H3 -60% (falling even further than its bigger brother)
Hummer H2 -56%

There are some big SUVs on the list, although fewer than you might think:

-67% (the Chrysler Aspen just barely escaped inclusion)
Infiniti QX56 -61%

Lots of midsize mainstream models have swooned:

Saab 9-7X -70%
Mercury Mountaineer -62%
Isuzu Ascender -56% (Isuzu has already announced it will quit the U.S. new vehicle market in January.)
Dodge Nitro -55%
Lexus GX470 -53%

Crossovers have not been immune:

Mitsubishi Endeavor -61%
Suzuki Grand Vitara -60%
Mazda CX-7 -52%
Saturn Outlook -58%
Hyundai Veracruz -56% (and the Veracruz, Outlook, and CX-7 are all well-reviewed, relatively fresh entries)
Mercedes-Benz R-class -56% (the only Mercedes model to suffer the indignity of being on this list)

Although cars are once again the majority of the U.S. new-vehicle market, their sales are still pretty sickly, none more so than these:

Volvo S40 -63%
-62% (2004 seems like a long time ago)
Saab 9-5 -56%
Saab 9-3 -55% (despite the summer solstice, these are dark days in Trollhatten)
-54% (would it have done worse if it were still called the Five Hundred?)
Cadillac DTS -54%
-53% (the hot-selling Malibu may have stolen some sales here)
Nissan 350Z -53% (being sporty is no defense)
Chrysler Sebring -50% (its twin, the Dodge Avenger, isn’t doing much better)

Most minivans saw declines and the most severe were in these marginal players:

Hyundai Entourage -86%

As Jim Cramer likes to say, “There’s always a bull market somewhere,” and so even in these bleak times, some cars – and even a few trucks – sold better this June than last. The three strongest categories are newly redesigned models (of course), small cars, and Koreans. And then there are some nameplates that are just defying gravity.

All-new, or new enough
These models are benefiting from redesigns:

+193% (impressive, but its total sales are still tiny)
Volvo V70/XC70 +32%
Mercedes-Benz C-class +25%
Chrysler Town & Country +21%
Acura TSX +13%

Small is beautiful
Usually unsexy, often unprofitable, and habitually neglected, small cars have languished as a corporate afterthought, but now they’ve come blinking out into the sunshine for the first time in decades. The best-selling car in America in June was the /Matrix (Toyota does not separate sales figures of the two), with the (May’s number one) in third place. Can pork-chop sideburns, earth shoes, and stagflation be far behind – or are they already here?

Suzuki SX4 +168% (new model)
+78% (and a new one is coming this fall . . . )
Mini Cooper +25%
Pontiac Vibe +23% (also got a redo)
Chevrolet Cobalt +22%
Toyota Corolla/Matrix +16% (gets an added boost from a redesign)
Mazda 3 +9% (in the final year of a highly successful run)
Honda Civic +9% (slipped a bit, now trails Corolla/Matrix and the Camry)
Volkswagen New Beetle +8%
Pontiac G5 +4% (Pontiac‘s oft-forgotten Chevy Cobalt twin)

Why the Koreans love a recession
Okay, so some of these are small, or redesigned, but what struck us was how many Hyundais and Kias were up in a down market. It could be the Wal-Mart effect: In tough economic times, people look for brands that promise value.

Kia Amanti +243% (fleet sales juice the numbers for this one)
+121% (better four-cylinder availability helps here)
Kia Spectra +3%

Defying gravity
The following models are neither new, nor small, nor Korean, but they trudged uphill to post gains anyway:

+259% (Viper fans are rushing out to get theirs before it goes away)
+46% (we’re stumped here)
Saturn Sky +44%
Pontiac G6 +34%
/S4 +34%
Mazda 5 +29% (the idea of a small minivan isn’t so crazy anymore)
Chevrolet TrailBlazer +28% (talk about defying gravity – although GM’s six-year, 0% financing helped)
Saturn Aura +26%
Saturn Vue +25%
Chevrolet HHR +24% (okay, it’s pretty small)
Maserati (all) +20%
Mercedes-Benz E-class +18% (ahead of a redesign next year)
Cadillac STS +12%
Mercedes-Benz SL-class +12% (it did get a minor facelift)
+9% (simply inexplicable)
Mercury Milan +8% (the Fusion and Milan gave Ford its only up arrows)
+8% (apparently ageless)
Pontiac Torrent +6% (see Equinox, above)
+5% (but the was down)
Mercedes-Benz ML-class +2%
Lamborghini (all) +2%
Lotus (all) +1%
+0% (Chevy sold 3 more Suburbans this June than last, too small to register a percentage)


Buying Guide
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2008 Nissan Titan

2008 Nissan Titan

MSRP $27,880 XE 2WD Short Bed Crew Cab


12 City / 17 Hwy

Payload (Max):

2,013 lbs.

Horse Power:

317 @ 5200