By The Numbers: December. Bah Humbug!

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
by the numbers december bah humbug

Santa left a lump of coal in the automakers' stockings this year. Even the usual Christmas sales failed to put presents under the tree. As the year drew to a close, new car and truck sales were down across the board, with carmakers jostling for the honor of doing less badly than the other guy. New Year's was a decidedly dour affair, with manufacturers clocking the housing downturn and the mortgage crisis and predicting either flat or "slightly lowered" sales in the year ahead. Translation: batten down the hatches; it's about to get rough. Ain't that the truth.

Compared to December '06, light vehicles sales sank 2.9 percent for the month, 2.5 percent for the year. The light truck market went dim, with sales four percent below last December's total. Annual truck sales dropped by 1.9 percent. Total car sales fell 1.7 percent compared for December of last year, ending the year three percent below 2006. Here's how the models we've been tracking fared at the end of the year.

Passenger Cars

Chevy's Impala plummeted 32 percent compared to last December. Robust spring sales forestalled total disaster; sales were up 7.3 percent for the year. The Chrysler 300 ended the month 38.8 percent below '06; total sales were down 16 percent from last year. Ford's Fusion was a life preserver; sales were up seven percent in December, 4.9 percent for year. Toyota's Camry showed an uncharacteristic 1.8 percent December drop, but finished the year 5.5 percent ahead of 2006. While Camry hybrid sales nose-dived 73.2 percent in December, the Prius was up 53 percent for the same period.

Pickup Trucks

After falling for four months, Silverado's sales clocked a 2.2 percent increase in December. GM's former Next Big Thing was down 2.8 percent for year. Dodge Ram sales also picked up– and finished December down 2.3 percent, 1.6 percent below 2006's totals. Ford's F-Series managed to retain it's title as "best selling truck," but only barely. With sales down 22 percent in December, 13.2 percent for year, FoMoCo'd better hope they can hang on until the redesigned model is ready in 2009. Toyota's Tundra didn't make their goal of 200k sales in '07, but the redesigned model easily eclipsed its predecessor. Sales were up 54.1 percent in December, 57.9 percent for the year.

Truck-Based SUVs

The sun continues to set on traditional body-on-frame SUV. The Chevrolet Tahoe dropped 25.6 percent from last December, ending the year down 9.4 percent. Dodge's Durango sank a staggering 42.6 percent below last last December, some 35.6 percent off the previous year's pace. The Ford Explorer is still lost. December sales were down 18.7 percent, annual sales sank 23.1 percent. Toyota's 4Runner also lacked love, losing 16.6 percent from last December, dropping 14.9 percent overall from the previous year.

CUVs

CUVs may be the hot ticket, but older models are suffering. Ye Olde Chevrolet Equinox lost 16.1 percent of its sales from last December, finishing the year down 21.4 percent. The soon-to-be-a-has-been Chrysler Pacifica fell an unbelievable 62.1 percent for the month, ending-up 31.1 percent below last year overall. The Ford Escape stumbled a bit, losing 8.9 percent from last December. But it finished the year with a 5.2 percent increase over 2006. Toyota's RAV-4 remains healthy, finishing the year up 0.2 percent for month and a whopping 13.6 percent for year.

New for 2007

Say what you will about cannibalization, GMC sold 7,393 Acadia mega-CUVs in December; an increase of 998 units over November. In total, GMC sold almost 73k Acadias in 2007. Ford's Edge did even better, finishing December with 13,722 sales, adding 1128 sales to November's total. Ford sold over 130k units in 2007. Jeep picked up an additional 612 Compass sales over November, putting 3,295 on the soft road in December; they sold just under 40k of the semi-Jeeps in 2007.

Total Sales

Scrooge reigned supreme in December with one minor exception. GM finished December down 4.4 percent from last December and down six percent year to date. Ford was in even worse shape, dropping nine percent for December and 11.8 percent below last year's total. Chrysler was the only automaker showing an increase over December '06: one half of one percent. For the year, Chrysler was down 3.1 percent. Toyota didn't fare as well, dropping 1.7 percent over last December, but finishing the year 3.1 percent ahead of last year.

Looking ahead

Let's just say it ain't gonna be pretty, and I'll be here to help keep your finger on the pulse.

[I'm making a few changes to illuminate overall trends. First, I'm dropping 2005's numbers to keep the charts to the current calendar year plus two. I'm adding Honda's numbers in the categories where they're a player. I'm replacing a few extinct models (e.g. Pacifica) and those that don't accurately represent that manufacturer's best efforts in their category (e.g. replacing Equinox with Acadia). I'm also thinking about adding a chart for the best-selling hybrid from each manufacturer (GM doesn't break out hybrids in their sales numbers, so they won't be included). If you have any other suggestions, let me know in a comment below.]

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 17 comments
  • Donal Donal on Jan 09, 2008
    Ongoing slump in autos Although this has become a familiar story, there is one interesting new development. For some time the trend has been that while total vehicle sales fell, sales of imported vehicles rose. Something curious happened last month, however, in that vehicles manufactured in North America actually gained market share relative to the imports. http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2008/01/ongoing_slump_i.html Another take on the data ...

  • Blautens Blautens on Jan 10, 2008

    Mr. Williams - As always, great article. Keep up the excellent work.

  • Cprescott I tend to use SiriusXm most of the time now but do use AM for traffic status reports in the tunnels and bridges that are around here - I don't have to take my eyes off of the road. Nice big navigation buttons on my radio head to move from XM to AM and back.
  • Jpolicke Manufacturers put such little effort into making AM reception sound like anything tolerable to listen to, they may as well drop the pretense and eliminate it altogether. Maybe it's not coincidental that my last car that had decent reception also had a traditional metal stick for its antenna.
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hideous
  • Irvingklaws Still listen to AM from time to time. Mostly just to find what's out there, often just after something has cleared all my presets. Lots of christian and rightwing politic talk shows, but there's still music, local news, traffic, and weather. I've found lots of non-English (as a primary language) stations as well. Kind of like local access cable. You can find more local content that can't get air time on the big stations. It can be fun to explore on trips just seek/scanning up and down the dial.
  • Oberkanone AM is choice for traffic reports, local news, and sports. FM is choice for music. I don't own a cell phone. How often is AM radio accessed? Over 90% of drives I use AM at some point.
Next