Wow, these numbers are simply awful:

• General Motors U.S. sales plunged to a 49-year low in 2008. December was another poor month, down 31%;

• Toyota U.S. deliveries plummeted 37% percent;

• Honda fell 35%;

• Ford Motor fell 32%

• Nissan was down 31% percent;

• Chrysler dived 53%;

• Mercedes-Benz was off 24;

•Audi sales fell 9.3%

• BMW sales fell 36%

• Subaru sales were down 7.7%;

• Volkswagen AG said its December sales fell 14%;

• This was the worst annual volume since 1992;

• 2008 will be the first year in which the U.S. automakers combined market share was less than 50%;

• This was the first drop in sales for Japanese automakers for Toyota since (1995) and Honda (1993);

These are terrible numbers across the board . . .


GM’s 2008 U.S. Sales Dive to 49-Year Low on Recession
Mike Ramsey and Alan Ohnsman
Bloomberg Jan. 5 2008

U.S. Auto Sales Continue to Skid
WSJ, JANUARY 5, 2009, 3:15 P.M. ET

Category: Economy, Retail

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

29 Responses to “Car Sales in 2008 Were Horrific”

  1. VennData says:

    So why do they want to build more roads then?

  2. PeterR says:


    Thanks once again for a great site.

    Are there any long-term graphs to put the bad auto sales numbers in perspective? If this is a reversion to the mean kind of year or two, it would be nice to see that graphically.

    After various other bad news periods (1930′s and 1987 come to mind), the equity markets took off (eventually) without looking back.

    Are we at such a point once again? See the 1987 chart on the last page of my list below. It took a while, but eventually the bottom “took hold.”



  3. rob says:

    @PeterR, Reminds of the “bottom calling” chart BR had a few months ago… tearing through floor after floor.

  4. Lars39 says:

    Most cars today are built to last if you maintain them. Maybe more people are finding that they can drive a car for over 100,000 miles and put 2 or 3 thousand dollars into repairs and maintenance rather than $25,000 every three years or so.

  5. constantnormal says:

    Not terribly surprising to anyone who has driven past any auto dealership the past quarter, with the lots packed to the gills with unsalable inventory. Local GM dealers were trying “2 for 1″ sales to try and move product, with no apparent success.

    I took our Honda in for an oil change last month, wandered into the showroom to look over the merchandise, and there were 7-8 sales persons, some sleeping, nobody showing much of any signs of life. It was so depressing, an automotive hobo-town.

    I can’t see how anyone would be surprised by this. Anyone who is needs to go out into the Big Blue Room more often.

    This is not being called a depression for nothing.

    How long does anyone think that the crumbs offered the US auto companies will last before they need more of the same?

    The drawback to having improved their products from the dark days of the 1970′s and 1980′s is that cars today will last a long time. We have Hondas that were made in 1998 and 2000, and I’m sure that they would serve us well for at least until 2020. Buying cars is now a matter of choice, not a matter of necessity to get rid of a car before it becomes a service hog.

    So before ANY car manufacturer has any significant recovery, customers need both a reason to buy and the disposable income to spend. With oil prices anchored by falling demand, and job security a laughable fiction, it will be a VERY long time before the car markets are strong enough to support more than about half the companies that are now struggling to survive.

  6. Pat G. says:

    I bought a new 2002 Pontiac in 2003 for $10K which was $8K less than the sticker. Now I’m looking for a new 2008 vehicle and there’s a boat load of them available. That’s the way I do it. Vehicle sales will get much worse before they get better.

  7. constantnormal says:

    I predict that auto sales in 2009 will be worse than in 2008.

  8. Winston Munn says:

    More overproduction and overcapacity based on the false asuumption that excessive debt is the same as real wealth – the consumer retrenchment is not about better value, but about necessity.

  9. willid3 says:

    this was all changed because wages have been collapsing. it was only a matter of time before the credit game was up, and smoke and mirrors economy collapsed. will it did. and now the real economy is here. and its much smaller. and it will stay that way for a while.

  10. A chart of auto sales vs. MEWs would probably be very telling

  11. albnyc says:

    I’ve been looking for charts of total annual US auto sales, but havent found one yet. If memory serves, car sales in the credit bubble years were way above historical trend, adjusted for population and household growth. This is a painful reversion to the mean, and it aint done yet.

  12. philipat says:

    Isn’t this all part of the same story? America has been living today by borrowing from the future. MEW and 0% financing essentially borrowed future sales. Manufacturing cars and putting them into inventory has the same effect, complicated by higher carrying costs. GM is now in a position whereby it can’t change or it won’t survive, hence we go to borrowing money from Uncle Sam at 8% and “Selling” cars with 0% finance. This solves nothing longer-term.

  13. rob says:

    Again, I notice the disconnect, 1980′s prices/sales ratios, but yet the stock market is still at 2003 prices! Makes very little sense other than credit induced. @@@albnyc see my post above @ 6:06 PM for annual sales back until late 70′s.

  14. Bruce in Tn says:

    Porsche sales were down 25.5 %….and yet my Boxster comes to me in my dreams…

  15. karen says:

    Bruce, have you seen the Panamera?! It should be available to touch this summer. You’re not really contemplating a boxter are you? I bet you could find a deal on a used 911 (especially in CA.)

  16. Bruce, have you seen the Panamera?! It should be available to touch this summer.

    How much does it cost to touch? ;)

  17. philipat says:

    bruce@yet my Boxster comes to me in my dreams…

    That’s not a real Porsche. The 911 Turbo is a real Porsche and they are so reliable that a 2-YO would be as new and better value than the Boxster.

  18. wunsacon says:

    Rob, sorry, a little help here, please… :-) Would you please elaborate on your 8:31pm post?

  19. Interesting reading in the NYT about a ‘new normal’ in auto sales… Wonder where sales would be minus the HELOC/e-z credit bubble, because that’s where sales _should_ have been…

    (and 100k mi? bah! my diesel Benz laughs at the miles, just ticked over 417k the other day… Built like bank vaults they were, until Lexus hit the scene and cost suddenly became an object…)

  20. Thisson says:

    The Panamera looks like a hatch-back. It’s strange looking. My dream car is the Audi r8:×300).jpg

  21. edhopper says:

    “Interesting reading in the NYT about a ‘new normal’ in auto sales… Wonder where sales would be minus the HELOC/e-z credit bubble, because that’s where sales _should_ have been… ”

    My thought’s exactly Dr.N. Has anybody looked at how many car sales were from MEWs and perceived “house wealth?

  22. Brendan says:

    Seems like people are starting to see the light regarding reliability/safety. Just doesn’t make sense to buy a new car… hasn’t for a several years now. The EPA now require that drivetrains last for 100K miles with minimal maintenance (150K for some parts). Your off-the-assembly-line engine needs to run for 100K miles and still meet emissions regs, which means your car needs to be able to do that, by law. I guess old habits die hard. Safety hasn’t increased much in the past 5-10 years, but a ton during the 10 years before that. Most of those dinosaurs are gone now though, so for the average driver, new cars aren’t getting you much more than a sat-nav and somewhere to plug in your ipod versus 5-year old cars.

    I assume the Subaru sales refer to December. According to this article -

    sales are up 0.3% for the year, not down 7.7%. Of course, if most of the media reported that their sales were up for the year, that wouldn’t fit their narrative, and might require them the write a whole sentence on why everything isn’t black and white. Good thing there were two authors on this article to help spread out that workload. Lazy… Also, their isn’t much reporting on these numbers:

    Hyundai: Down 14%
    Kia: Down 11%

    Even though these two brands (same company) only account for about 3% of the market share, these are a couple of interesting data points because it shows that this market hasn’t been hit nearly as hard, much like the high end market. Why are the Koreans in the same company as the Germans? Maybe it says something about ripping off German styling! I’d be curious to know how Kia’s sales are affected by fleet sales to rental car companies, etc.; did that help them or hurt them this year? Based on my visits to the airport, it must be a big segment of their sales.

  23. jonpublic says:

    Its not just the big three that’s suffering here. Japan is going to run into problems if the U.S. auto market completely collapses.

    @constantnormal I’m skeptical of your cars lasting until 2020. That’s quite a while, but I’m here in the north where the winter salt will slowly eat your car no matter what.

    At least here in Michigan there is a sense of things bottoming out. Things will get worse, but they aren’t going to get a ton worse.

  24. DP says:

    Maybe they should consider making the actual experience of buying a car a little more pleasant. A car is a tool to me, when I have to buy a new one I dread it. I don’t want to deal with car salespeople online or offline. I don’t want to deal with a sales organization that won’t acknowledge your existence the minute you drive off the lot – you’re the service department’s problem then.

    I’ve been in dealerships and “made a deal” only to have the manager come in and tell me they “made a mistake” and that isn’t really the price. I’ve been in dealerships and had an agreed on price retracted when they realized I wasn’t going to finance so they couldn’t add in a little extra on the interest rate. It’s an urban myth perhaps but I have at least one confirmed case of where the salesperson accidentally repeating something they could only possibly have heard by “listening in” during that “I’ll give you a few minutes to discuss it” (with my wife) period. A few years ago in one showroom I had to state quite clearly that if they didn’t return the keys to my own car immediately (they had the keys to ‘check it out for trade-in value’), I was driving off in the car I had just test-driven and our lawyers and the police could sort it out from there.

    The entire industry is corrupt. No sympathy here and somewhat furious that I can’t “opt out” of bailing them out.

  25. I’m skeptical of your cars lasting until 2020. That’s quite a while, but I’m here in the north where the winter salt will slowly eat your car no matter what.

    My friend got a 1988 Toyota Corolla as a HS graduation present.. It died late last year (2008) after 20 years of northeast driving.. My panzer is a 1987 300SDL, still ticking and puffing at 417k mi (hope to get to 500k before starting to look around for newer)..

    Oh, you meant American cars, engineered by beancounter committees?

  26. gloppie says:

    Here is a car I would buy…the Citroen deuce redux.
    If it is anything like the old version, it would be great to own a simple, efficient, reliable vehicle, that gets you from A to B, AND looks good and turns heads.

  27. V says:

    Interesting comments from Subaru regarding the ability of customers to obtain finance.
    In other words no worries because Subaru customers can actually afford to purchase. (4:00)

  28. In other words no worries because Subaru customers can actually afford to purchase.

    I guess selling fair-trade Peruvian clothing and performing at open-mic poetry slams is more lucrative than I thought..