By The Numbers January '08: A Not-So-Happy New Year

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
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by the numbers january 08 a not so happy new year

Even before 2008 arrived, industry experts were predicting a bad, bad thing. So far, they haven't been disappointed. While January tends to be a low sales month, as everyone tries to recover from holiday overindulgence, this January was worse than expected. There were a few inexplicable bright spots (*cough* channel stuffing *cough* dealer fleet sales *cough*). Sales of the Dodge Caliber (up 25.5 percent over last January), Ford Focus (up 44.4 percent), Buick LaCrosse (up 69.3 percent) and Chevy Cobalt (up 32.9 percent) all shot up. But these four-wheeled anomalies weren't enough to salvage the month. Let's break it down…

You'll notice we've made a few changes in the models we're tracking. Last year, we didn't include Honda because they didn't offer models in all our categories. This year we said "what the Hell" and added the Accord and Pilot to the passenger car and CUV categories. With a new crop of CUVs available, we dropped the hoary Chevrolet Equinox and DNR Chrysler Pacifica and added the ascendant GMC Acadia. We'd like to track GM's hybrid sales but, for some reason, they don't break them out of the totals. So the Toyota Prius will be our hybrid bellwether.

Pickup Trucks

As gas prices keep going up, pickup sales keep going down. The Chevrolet Silverado was down 5.9 percent from last January. The lame duck Ford F-Series continued its downward trend, ending the month 8.4 percent lower than the same month in 07. The lame lamb Dodge Ram plummeted 18.4%. The Toyota Tundra showed a 91 percent increase, but that's because the previous model was winding down in January last year.

Passenger Cars

Instead of the Chevrolet Impala, this year we'll be tracking the new Malibu. Initial sales numbers are strong; sales are 57.9 percent above last January. Chrysler's 300 continues on slippin', slippin'; shedding 9.7 percent from last year's total. Ford Fusion sales were uncharacteristically low, dropping 12.8 percent. Camry held steady, showing a 0.4 percent increase. The Honda Accord's redesign hasn't helped it much so far; sales are down 6.8 percent from the same month last year.

Truck-based SUVs

The mass exodus from massive SUVs continues. Chevrolet Tahoe sales dropped 12.1% from last January. The Ford Explorer ended the month 18.7 percent lower. The Dodge Durango took it on the chin, tumbling a jaw-dropping 32.8 percent. Instead of tracking 4Runner this year, we'll see if Toyota's redesign has any effect on Sequoia's numbers. For now it seems to be working. The Sequoia finished the month 15.5 percent ahead of last January.


The current CUV poster child, the GMC Acadia, is up 335 percent from last January. That's not quite as startling as it seems. The model was introduced in January '07; production had just begun. The Ford Edge has edged the Ford Escape out of our charts. The Edge is up 94.9 percent for the same reason as Acadia. Toyota recently redesigned the Highlander, so we'll follow it instead of RAV-4. As the newish Highlander was up 19.4 percent from last January, the redesign was a good thing. Will it have legs? Honda's Pilot may not. It makes a less-than-spectacular debut on our charts, finishing the month 10.7 percent below last year's sales totals.


Is the hybrid boom going to go bust? If you assume that the Prius IS the hybrid boom– a fair assumption considering that the gas-electric sedan has no real sales competition– we're still booming. The Prius gained a whopping 37.1 percent over last January's totals. Whether sales will continue to grow remains to be seen, but this is one of the few models that's helped by rising gas prices.

Total Sales

Anyone who looked at the business page or any automotive publication knows GM finished in the black in what was an otherwise dismal month. GM's sales were up 2.6 percent over last January's, but it must be remembered that last January was horrific for The General. Ford was down 3.9 percent and Toyota and Honda were both down 2.3 percent. Chrysler really took another head shot, starting the year 12.1 percent below last year.

The Future

GM and Ford analysts have pretty much written off financial quarters one through three. And for good reasons: a moribund housing market killing consumer confidence, the possibility of widespread car loan defaults, rising subprime interest rates tightening consumer credit, bankrupt suppliers, rising production costs, rising gas prices and changing markets. Now more than ever, survival of the fittest are the industry watchwords. And watch we will.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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  • 285exp If the conversion to EVs was really so vital to solve an existential climate change crisis, it wouldn’t matter whether they were built by US union workers or where the batteries and battery materials came from.
  • El scotto Another EBPosky, "EVs are Stoopid, prove to me water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius" article.It was never explained if the rural schools own the buses or if the school bus routes are contracted out. If the bus routes are contracted out, will Carpenter or Bluebird offer an electric school bus? Flexmatt never stated the range of brand-unspecified school bus. Will the min-mart be open at the end of the 179-mile drive? No cell coverage? Why doesn't the bus driver have an emergency sat phone?Two more problems Mr. Musk could solve.
  • RICK Long time Cadillac admirer with 89 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance and 93 Brougham, always liked Eldorado until downsized after 76. Those were the days. Sad to see what now wears Cadillac name.
  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.