Ford, Hyundai, Toyota lead industry to 15% gain

DECEMBER U.S. AUTO SALES
Ford, Hyundai, Toyota lead industry to 15% gain
12:00 pm U.S. ET, Jan. 5 | UPDATED: 1/5/10 5:03 p.m ET

Ford, Toyota, Subaru and Hyundai Group spurred a year-end U.S. sales rally that took some sting out of a painful year. Overall, December light vehicle sales rose 15 percent from a year earlier, while full-year volume fell 21 percent. Last month’s s seasonally adjusted annual selling rate came in at 11.9 million, well ahead of analysts’ expectations of about 11 million.

December’s bounce was enough to boost full-year volume to 10.43 million, down 21 percent from 2008.

That was the lowest since 1982’s 10.35 million sales and a sharp drop when compared with the rest of the decade. Through 2008, industry sales this decade had averaged 16.4 million.

But it’s a distinct improvement from the first half of 2009, when the seasonally adjusted annual selling rate was 9.5 million. December’s SAAR was 11.9 million, well ahead of analysts’ expectations of 11 million or 11.1 million.

December was the third month this year with a year-over-year sales increase but perhaps the best signal yet that the U.S. auto industry is on the mend. August’s 1 percent increase was fueled by the cash-for-clunkers government stimulus, and November’s gain was an almost invisible 35 vehicles.

Still cautious

Still, automakers remain cautious about the pace of recovery this year. Ford Motor Co. expects 2010 U.S. sales to be between 11.5 million and 12 million. Sales boss Ken Czubay says last year’s lessons were painful.

“2009 may be the most historic year in the automobile business. There were bankruptcies, bailouts, government stimulus,” he said. “I’m leaving my seat belt on because I think that volatility is still the new norm.”

American Honda, Nissan North America and Volkswagen Group also posted double-digit gains, and Mazda and BMW Group finished in positive territory.

Not everyone won in December. General Motors, Chrysler Group, Porsche and Mitsubishi all narrowly lost ground, with the sharpest decline being GM’s 6 percent. The only big losers were Suzuki, down 48 percent, and Maserati, down 57 percent to 115 sales.

Ford’s 16 percent sales decline for the year enabled it to gain ground on No. 1 GM and No. 2 Toyota Motor Sales and let Ford post its first improvement in annual market share in 14 years.

December was key. Last month Ford reported sales increases in each product category and for each brand. Ford’s domestic-brand cars jumped 42 percent for the month and crossovers rose 51 percent. Ford domestic SUV sales gained 33 percent, but pickups and minivans were up 18 percent.

Ford brand sales rose 37 percent, while Lincoln gained 16 percent and Mercury a more modest 6 percent.

Hyundai rising

But South Korea’s Hyundai Group is knocking down the walls around any notion of a Big 6, slashing the sales lead of No. 6 Nissan North America from more than a quarter of a million in 2008 to fewer than 35,000 units last year.

Subaru’s 33 percent gain last month pushed its industry-leading advance for the year to 15 percent.

Nissan’s 18 percent increase brought its tumble for the year to 19 percent.

Chrysler’s 4 percent December decline left it with a 36 percent drop for the year. Porsche also fell last month, by 2 percent, for a 24 percent 2009 decline.

Before the release of today’s results, analysts projected that U.S. auto sales would end the year on a slight upswing.

Jamie LaReau and Reuters contributed to this report

U.S. light-vehicle sales (all manufacturers have reported)

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Automaker

Dec. 2009

Dec. 2008

Pct. chng.

12 month
2009

12 month
2008

Pct. chng.

BMW Group*

23,647

21,663

9%

242,087

303,634

–20%

Chrysler Group LLC

86,523

89,813

–4%

931,402

1,453,122

–36%

Daimler AG**

20,904

20,866

0%

205,199

249,750

–18%

Ford Motor Co.***

183,701

138,325

33%

1,677,234

2,002,279

–16%

General Motors****

207,538

220,030

–6%

2,071,749

2,954,819

–30%

Honda (American)†

107,143

86,085

24%

1,150,784

1,428,765

–19%

Hyundai Group††

54,845

38,681

42%

735,127

675,139

9%

Isuzu

188

–100%

165

4,758

–97%

Jaguar Land Rover†††

4,841

3,632

33%

38,261

23,229

65%

Maserati

115

265

–57%

1,273

2,509

–49%

Mazda

18,255

17,965

2%

207,767

263,949

–21%

Mitsubishi

4,357

4,570

–5%

53,986

97,257

–44%

Nissan‡

73,404

62,101

18%

770,103

951,350

–19%

Porsche

2,118

2,154

–2%

19,696

26,035

–24%

Subaru

23,074

17,287

33%

216,652

187,699

15%

Suzuki

1,885

3,650

–48%

38,689

84,862

–54%

Toyota‡‡

187,860

141,949

32%

1,770,147

2,217,660

–20%

VW‡‡‡

29,582

25,442

16%

297,537

313,581

–5%

Other (estimate)

304

444

–32%

3,651

5,321

–31%

TOTAL

1,030,096

895,110

15%

10,431,509

13,245,718

–21%

Numbers in this table are calculated by Automotive News based on actual monthly sales reported by the manufacturers and may differ from numbers reported elsewhere.
Source: Automotive News Data Center
Note: Other includes estimates for Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Lotus
*Includes Mini and Rolls-Royce
**Includes Maybach, Mercedes-Benz and Smart
***Includes Jaguar and Land Rover (through May 31, 2008) and Volvo
****Includes Saab
†Includes Honda Division and Acura
††Includes Hyundai and Kia
†††Tata Motors includes Jaguar and Land Rover as of June 1, 2008
‡Includes Nissan Division and Infiniti
‡‡Includes Toyota Division, Lexus and Scion
‡‡‡Includes VW, Audi and Bentley

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