By the Numbers: July Sizzles, Sales Fizzle

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams
by the numbers july sizzles sales fizzle

July's temperatures may have been hotter than Hell, but U.S. new car sales were in Hell. Rising gas prices have thrown the entire American auto industry into turmoil, flooding the market with used SUVs and pickups, cratering residual values and trapping millions of consumers in light truck limbo. At the same time, automakers can't ramp-up production quickly enough on those fuel-sipping models that are leaving the lots. Incentives aren't moving the metal, but NOT increasing them would be worse. The downturn is widespread. And despite what the automakers say, it's going to get worse. Soon. For now, here's the damage report.

Overall, U.S. light vehicle sales were down 13.2 percent from last July, down 10.5 percent overall from last year. That breaks down into a 0.3 percent drop in passenger cars and a 25.8 percent drop in truck sales. Year to date (YTD), car sales are down only 1.5 percent. But Detroit's still-truck-centric Big 2.8 are taking it on the chin, with truck sales off by 19.3 percent.

Family Sedans

Chevy's Malibu* continues its strong showing against last year's lackluster model; up 78.6 percent in July and 37 percent YTD. Ford's Fusion also booked a healthy increase, up 13.5 percent for the month, 11.9 percent for the year. Chrysler's 300 continues its slide into the dumpster, dropping 57.6 percent below last July and 39.1 YTD. The Toyota Camry* leveled off, finishing July 1.5 percent; it's a wash YTD. Honda Accord sales continue to outpace last year, finishing the month 11.4 percent ahead and 12.6 percent better YTD.


Compacts' popularity continue to soar. The Chevy Cobalt was up 3.5 percent, 16.4 percent YTD. The Focus is once again Ford's most popular car, racking up 15.6 percent more sales, up a full 26.2 percent YTD. The Dodge Caliber bucked the trend, dropping 9.4 percent for the month, down 1.2 percent YTD. The Toyota Corolla** increased sales by 15.9 percent, but fell down 1.3 percent YTD. The Honda Civic* was up 4.6 percent, 16.1 percent YTD. The Nissan Sentra finished the month up 16 percent, 5.3 percent YTD.


The up-and-down Chevy Aveo was up 16.9 percent ahead of last July, but only 1.4 percent YTD. Toyota's Yaris showed a 6.1 percent increase for the month and a 34.1 percent jump YTD. The Honda Fit also experienced a meteoric rise. Sales were up a staggering 93.4 percent in July, 72.9 percent YTD. Nissan's Versa rose 14.4 percent above last July, up 19.6 percent YTD.


Toyota Prius ' demand continues to outstrip supply. Sales in July were down 8 percent from last July. Annual sales are down 3.9 percent.

Pickup Trucks

And now the bad news… Chevy's Silverado* plunged 29.8 percent from last July, down 26.1 percent YTD. The Ford F-Series isn't doing quite as badly. Sales off 20.6 percent on the month, down 22.4 percent on the year. Even with dealers running half price sales, the Dodge Ram sank 27.2 percent, down 30.0 percent YTD. They're all doing better than the Tundra. ToMoCo's full-size pickup dropped 42.1 percent from last July. Sales are down 15.2 percent from last year.

Truck-Based SUVs

There's only one thing that can make pickup sales look good: SUV sales. Chevy's Tahoe* is down 35.1 percent for the month, off 27.8 percent YTD. The Ford Explorer has lost its way, finishing the month down 51.8 percent, minus 35.6 percent YTD. The biggest loser: the Durango. The Dodge Boys sold all of 384 units in July. Sales tumbled 84.5 percent, down 51.3 percent YTD. Toyota Sequoia sales continue growing, with an increase of 62.9 percent from last July, up 32.8 YTDr.


The once and future Next Big Thing wasn't. Sales of the GMC Acadia, the best selling of the Lambdas triplets (soon to be quints), dropped 5.2 percent. Healthy sales from earlier in 2008 kept the model 6.6 percent ahead of last year. The Ford Edge continues edging down, dropping 6.5 percent. Again, it's a recent phenom; sales are up 13.8 percent YTD. Even with a hybrid model available, the Toyota Highlander* dropped to its lowest level in three years. July sales slid 23.7 percent, down 7.4 percent YTD. The Pilot made a strong "contribution" to Honda's 22 percent drop in truck sales; it was off 43 percent, down 21.1 percent YTD.

By Manufacturer

Deep breath. GM sales plunged 26.1 percent for the month, down 17.7 percent YTD. Ford had the best showing of the D3, dropping "only "17.1 percent. Year to date, they're off 14.8 percent. Chrysler didn't have a lot to start with, but they still managed to finish 28.8 percent below last July. For the year, ChryCo is down 22.8 percent. Toyota's starting to get used to the negative side of the sales ledger, falling 11.9 percent, down 7.6 percent below last year's mark. And, showing they're not invulnerable, Honda lost 1.6 percent from last July. They're still 3.2 percent ahead of last year.

Down the Road

Here come the "please God clear this lot of '08s" rebates and incentives. While Toyota, Honda and others are selling all the small cars they can produce, GM, Ford and Chrysler can only respond to current demand with the promise of new, highly competitive small cars. They won't come on-stream in force until 2010. Meanwhile, August is going to be brutal and then… winter. What's beyond brutal?

*Include Hybrid models

** Includes Matrix

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2 of 45 comments
  • AJ AJ on Aug 08, 2008

    I'm looking to buy a new or used vehicle as a daily driver, so that I can park my Jeep Wrangler to build it up (and make it even suck more gas!). Anyway, I test drove a Civic Coup LX last Saturday. They had three on the lot, and the salesman told me he'd get me whatever I want and has called me twice since then. I told him that I'm not in a rush and really don't want to buy for several more months to give me time to look at other options. The Civic I test drove was fine and has great mpg, but it was slow and boring. Would be hard to go back... My other option is like a '98 to '01 Jeep Cherokee. I'm looking for deals now to move one off a lot! I would put up with the lower mpg then drive a Civic again (I had two once).

  • Armadamaster Armadamaster on Aug 11, 2008

    " Ford had the best showing of the D3, dropping "only "17.1 percent." Now that's what I love to hear, Ford's would be Panther replacement with more models is being outsold by the partially fleet only Panther YTD, with death lingering on the Sable and X.

  • Wjtinfwb 2 Focus owner, an '03 SVT 3dr. and a '16 ST. Both have been absolutely bulletproof and the '16 is an exceptionally great driving and riding little car. No rattles, squeaks, original brakes at 60k miles and the only replacement part was a new battery in 2019. The SVT was a riot to drive on a good road but a chore in daily commuting, the 2.0 Zetec had to have 5k on the tach to come alive and with the A/C on in Atlanta traffic, it was no fun. But dead nuts reliable in 133k miles and 9 years of ownership. Both had manual transmissions which eliminated the DCT complaint. Find a Focus with a manual if you're looking for a fun, cheap & sturdy car, I think you'll be pleased.
  • ToolGuy Riddle me this: Since Ford knows everything about manufacturing cars, and Mercedes-Benz knows nothing, which vehicle has more torsional rigidity, this 1999 Mustang convertible or a 'comparable' Mercedes convertible? Background information (plus a video from the good-looking Top Gear guy).Extra credit: Did Ford do the convertible conversion or did they outsource it? (And M-B?)
  • Jeff S Unless muscle cars and pony like cars come back in popularity they will continue to disappear. Seems like some commenters are still not aware that pickups, suvs, and crossovers are what is selling. Manufacturers are going to make what sells regardless of who is the President. It is strictly business.
  • Tassos The best way to charge is while your car is parked at work, if your employer lets you charge it for free (some do).After that, it's charging at home.Using chargers on a long trip is not only much more expensive than charging at home, and not only does it take 30 minutes or more vs the 5 mins tops to fill a gas tank, but many times with popular trips (eg LA- las Vegas very popular with others, not with me, I despise Las Vegas and the morons who consider it fun to give their hard earned $ to the casino owners), you should expect far more than the 30 min, as you may need to queue up, possibly for hours, until a damned charger becomes free.
  • ToolGuy What a concept.