By the Numbers Special Edition: Now for Some Positive Sales Numbers
TTAC's monthly By The Numbers editorial tracks everything from fuel-sucking SUVs to the gas-sipping Prius. In this month's report, the sales stat were bleak almost across the board. Almost, but not quite. Economy car sales are, as you'd expect, relatively robust. To bring a little joy to readers fed-up with a steady stream of bad news, I decided to chart new car sales for subcompacts and compacts from the "Big 6:" Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. The stats run for all of '07, and year-to-date. Here's how the so-called bottom of the automotive food chain is looking, with review links and inventory levels thrown-in for good measure…
Honda's Fit is giving the competition fits. Sales of Jonny Lieberman's favorite sub-compact are up a whopping 61.4 percent over last March. Annual sales are even more impressive: jumping some 77 percent over last year. Hard to believe, but the Toyota Yaris did even better on the month, clocking-in with a 70.1 percent increase. The car RF said "isn't a pig to drive" didn't do quite as well on the year, rising "only" 58.3% over the first three months. Nissan's Versa is picking-up steam too. It was up 24.6 percent for March and 20.5 percent for the year. The good news ended at Chevy dealers' doors. The Korean-built Chevy Aveo's sales were way down– a 45.6 percent drop from last March. Annual sales of PJ's whipping post are down 19.2 percent from this time last year.
The inventory levels for these mighty mites reflect their sales show. Chevy started April with a 113-day supply of Aveos. Honda only stocked enough Fits to last 27 days, and Nissan's supply of Versas would last 53 days. Toyota doesn't break out individual models in their inventory numbers, but they started the month with a 51-day supply of cars and trucks.
Compact sales look equally robust, with a couple of surprising exceptions. The Dodge Caliber went up 10.1 percent in March and is 15.2 percent ahead of last year. Ford's Focus is in SYNC, with a 24 percent jump in March and a 23.2 percent gain over 2007 year to date. The Honda Civic finished the month 10.2 percent ahead of last March and up 13.8 percent on last year. The compact-in-name-only Nissan Sentra had a strong showing, increasing 12.8 percent in March and 20.5 percent for the year to date.
The surprises: the Chevy Cobalt and Toyota Corolla. Both showed sales decreases in March. Sales of the car Chris Paukert called " a solid set-up man" (back in 2005) dropped 23.8 percent. The Corolla fell even further, down 26.9 percent. For the year to date, Cobalt's still holding its own, with a 14.5 percent increase over last year. Corolla's sales so far this year are down 24 percent.
As with the subcompacts, inventory levels of the compacts reflect the monthly sales. April began with a 48-day supply of Calibers and a 54-day supply of Foci on dealers' lots. Honda dealers started the month with a 52-day supply of Civic. The Sentra started the month with the ideal 60-day level. Chevy faced April Fool's Day with a 75-day supply of Cobalts. Just like with the Yaris, the inventory level for the Corolla wasn't available.
You'll see a flurry of activity in the subcompact and compact segment over the next few years, particularly from the American manufacturers. They've all but ignored these markets while chasing truck profits, with two not even playing in the subcompact segment. And now it's coming back to haunt them. With the 35-mpg CAFE standard looming on the horizon, The Big 2.8 have put their small car skates on.
Ford's decision to make SYNC an option on the Focus (rather than limiting the technology to their more expensive vehicles) and the forthcoming importation of the new Fiesta reflect this new priority. Chrysler's deal with Nissan will give them a Japanese-built small car in a couple of years; their partnership with Chery should bear fruit soon. GM's focusing a lot of attention on GMDAT, their corporate small car nexus.
While they play catch-up, China and/or India could well send a bevy of small cars to our shores. And Toyandasan and friends aren't aren't sitting back watching by the market segment they dominate lip away. They'll keep improving their products to maintain their lead. The end result: an American small car renaissance. It is, in fact, the silver lining.
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I know where all the 2009 Corolla's went, out to California. There were actually running a 0% finance deal out here on the new 2009's. Between that, and the 35mpg highway, I bought one a the beginning of April. The dealer I got mine from had a slew of LE, XLE, and some S models. I test drove the Yaris, but I did not like the center pod instrument panel. I also test drove the Fit, but with the financeing deal Toyota had going, the Corolla was a much better deal in my opinion.