By the Numbers: August Sales Finish in Eponnistuminen

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

In Finnish, August is elokuu, the “month of life.” Automakers selling vehicles in the U.S. market missed the irony, as most A) don’t speak Finnish and B) finished one of their worst sales months ever. Even company-wide sales promotions didn’t do anything to put paddles to chest. Ford asked us to “Drive One” (wouldn’t it be more effective if they asked us to “Buy One”?), and GM shared employee pricing (maybe if they threw in the employee health program… ) while Chrysler invited us to “Shop until you drive” (again, where’s the “buy” part?). Toyota and Honda aren’t showing that kind of desperation. Yet. But they still felt some pain. Let’s take a closer look at the katastrofi.

Overall, light vehicle sales dropped 15.5 percent in August, compared to August of last year. Year to date, sales are off by 11.2 percent. Car sales were down 8.5 percent for the month and 2.4 percent for the year. Truck sales took a hard hit, dropping 22.0 percent from last August and are down 19.7 percent compared to last year.

Family Sedans

The star of every GM press release: the Chevy Malibu*. The model was up 8.4 percent compared to last August and up 32.4 percent for the first eight months of this year. Although Ford’s Fusion is still up seven percent year-to-date (YTD), the model dropped 27.5 percent on the month. Chrysler’s 300 continues to circle the drain, with a 59.1 percent plunge in August. YTD. Even with four out of every ten 300s sold went to fleets so far this year, sales are down 41.3 percent. The Toyota Camry* continues its slow crawl back up from June’s drastic crop, with a 3.3 percent increase over last August; it’s managing to stay ahead of last year by just 0.4 percent. After riding above the 2007 sales line since March, the Honda Accord dropped below the line in August, with a 7.9 percent dip. However, it still remains nine percent above last year overall.


Busting the 30 mpg barrier with the XFE didn’t help the Chevy Cobalt. August sales fell 26.6 percent for the month (it remains up 9.6 percent YTD). Ford’s Focus soared 23.4 percent ahead of last August, and is up 25.8 percent on the year. Dodge’s unlikely fleet queen, the Caliber, sank 56.8 percent. With over half Caliber production sailing with the fleets YTD sales remained 8.2 percent above last year’s level. For the first time since gas prices went crazy, the Toyota Corolla** fell below last year’s line. The sales champ dropped 3.4 percent for the month, down 1.5 percent on the year. The Honda Civic* continues to ride above last year’s line, with sales up 5.3 percent for August, up 14.7 percent year to date. Nissan’s Sentra dropped sharply from July to August. But it’s still up 1.4 percent up on last August, 4.9 percent YTD.


The hot market in gas-sipping subcompacts seems to be cooling down. The Chevy Aveo finished August down 21.3 percent from the previous year, down 1.8 percent YTD. Toyota may need to check into whether or not Yaris sales are cannibalizing the Corolla. While the staid compact fell in August, its subcompact sibling jumped 20.5 percent, with a 32.4 percent increase YTD. The Honda Fit was in short supply due to the model changeover, so it was down 25.1 percent for August. The Fit’s a healthy 55.7 percent ahead of last year overall. Nissan’s Versa fell below 2007 levels for the first time this year with a 5.2 percent drop. It remains up 15.7 percent year-to-date.


Even though it remains the darling of the green scene with demand to match, Prius sales were down 4.2 percent in August, down four percent on the year. Toyota better plug in that Mississippi plant and crank out Priora STAT.

Pickup Trucks

As you could guess, the big trucks continued to take it in the shorts. Chevy’s Silverado* extended its sub-2007 trend, with sales down 17.4 percent in August and 24.8 percent YTD. Ford delayed the launch of its ’09 F-150 so it could clear the ’08 inventory. With current model sales down 41.6 percent, 25.2 percent YTD, it’s not clear if there’s enough demand/space/credit on the ground for the new truck’s success. The Dodge Boys said “what the Hell” and launched their freshened Ram— even though they aren’t moving many ‘08s. Ye Olde Ram was down 22.7 percent for the month, down 29.0 percent YTD. Toyota’s Tundra continues to fail to meet original expectations (200k annnual units) with an eight percent drop for August and a 14.1 percent slide YTD.

Truck-Based SUVs

Employee Pricing for Everyone– or fleet sales– seems to be helping the Chevy Tahoe*. It bounced back a bit from July’s drop, ending August “just” 10.2 percent below last August. However, for the year it’s down 25.7 percent. Ford’s Explorer joins the Durango in the toilet. Sales sank 53.9 percent in August, almost as bad as Durango’s 56.8 percent drop. Explorer’s still doing better YTD, though. It’s “only” 37.8 percent below last year, compared to Durango’s 51.8 percent loss. When you’re selling in small numbers, a 1500 unit increase can equal high percentages, as illustrated by Toyota Sequoia’s 86.1 percent jump above last August and its 38.4 percent rise over last year.


After spending four months below 2007’s sales line, the GMC Acadia jumped 25 percent above the line for August; it’s up 8.9 percent year to date. The Ford Edge edged its way up from last month, but it’s still down two percent compared with last August. So far it’s 11.7 percent ahead of last year. The restyled Toyota Highlander* doesn’t seem to be making much of an impression on the buying public; it was down 15.2 percent for August, down 8.3 percent on the year. After staying below the ’07 line for three months, the Honda’s Pilot rallied and ended August 18.6 percent above last August. Meanwhile, Pilot sales are down 16.8 percent YTD.

By Manufacturer

Last year, all five manufacturers showed an uptick from July to August. This year all but Ford did the same, but at a much lower level than last year. Compared to August of last year, GM was down 20.3 percent, down 18.1 percent for the year. Ford dropped 28.6 percent from last August and shows a 16.5 percent drop year to date. While Chrysler showed a slight upturn from last month, it’s 34.5 percent below last August and 24.2 percent below last year. The Toyota juggernaut has reversed direction, losing 9.4 percent from August ’07 and dipping 7.8 percent year to date. Honda dipped below 2007 last year and stayed there for August with a 7.3 percent loss. However, they managed to keep their head above water year-to-date, with a 1.7 percent increase.

Down the Road

Automotive News predicted sales hit rock bottom in August and would rebound from there. Then they said “never mind.” That just shows it’s almost impossible to guess what’ll happen next. There are still a lot of 2008 models on the lots with the 2009’s showing up daily. Dealers are already offering full-sized trucks for half price and as the manufacturers ramp up incentives you may see even sweeter deals than that. The last five months of 2008 are shaping up to be one hurjasti ahdistaa.

* Includes hybrid models

** Includes Matrix

All numbers are unadjusted and reflect total sales

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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2 of 16 comments
  • Blautens Blautens on Sep 18, 2008

    After spending all of August shopping for a car for my mother, I have an idea why sales are down for the month (at least in Florida)...too &*#$@ hot! I kid you not, she wanted to look at the Hyundai dealer, but they don't have a covered parking garage for all the cars, and she wouldn't spend more than 10 minutes at the dealer - didn't want to leave the air conditioned showroom to walk around the broiling sun on hot asphalt.

  • CRConrad CRConrad on Sep 22, 2008

    Miksi ihmeessä tässä yhtäkkia puhutaan Suomea?

  • MaintenanceCosts If you trust that Tesla vehicles are capable of "Full Self-Driving," then maybe you should also trust that this is surface contamination and that the underlying metal is unaffected.(Although it's also worth mentioning that surface contamination comes off traditionally painted cars with a sponge and a little soap.)
  • Ajla They are expecting flat sales?!
  • Honda1 Losing 45k per vehicle! This company won't be around to release the R2. Put a fork in it!
  • Zipper69 Alternatively, get cousin Goober in the back seat going "VROOM, VROOM"
  • John The answer is to wipe it off? I don't recall ever having to "wife off rust" in any car I've ever owned. Well... once a year claybar for rail dust maybe.