By on January 5, 2009

In fact, sales for the Toyota brand itself (as distinct from Scion and Lexus) fell by 37.5 percent. Oh yeah? Well, Lexus’ December sales sank by a whopping 41.8 percent. There was only one– count it ONE vehicle– that experienced a sales increase. The Lexus LX, the gigantic badge-engineered Toyota Land Cruiser, increased sales from 132 to 508 monthly sales (something to do with gray market exports to the Gulf methinks). Everything else dropped like a proverbial stone thrown in a deep dark well, from the Corolla (-19.4 percent) to the Camry (-22.6 percent) to the Highlander (-47.1 percent) to the aforementioned Land Cruiser (-65 percent). The Scion xB redo is looking like a HUGE mistake, with sales off by 52.6 percent for the month, which is only slightly less bad than December sales of the Texas-built Tundra (-52.2 percent). One wonders what these numbers would look like without the Saved By Zero marketing campaign. Folks, in case you didn’t know it, it’s Hell out there.

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21 Comments on “Toyota December Sales Hit the Wall: Down by 36.7%...”

  • avatar

    I am honestly surprised that Toyota is taking lumps much the same as the domestic makers, sometime more brutal.

    You also have to remember that Toyota is still leasing, GM, not so much.

    The new xB is defitely a mistake, a lot of people recognized that as soon as the production version revealed its ugly face. The 2009 Corolla is a bit of a mystery to me as well. I have been waiting for the public to finally realize that it….well… Calling the 2009 Corolla a redesign strikes me as the same sort of corporate indifference that got Detroit into its current mess.

  • avatar

    Toyota just doesn’t get it. Their workers are obviously way over paid. Management needs to be fired. Americans don’t want their cars.

    I have an idea for our congress critters, maybe they should take $1.00 per year salary until they balance the budget! Incompetence know no bounds.

    /rant off

  • avatar

    Subaru of America sales UP .3% from 187,699 vehicles to 187,208. Who knew that the new Subaru and the uninspired Impreza would buck auto industry trends. Maybe that is why my local dealer wouldn’t bend over on the Legacy I was looking at like he would on his Chrysler inventory.

  • avatar

    Toyota’s response to the market crash: 0% financing for well qualified buyers.

    GM’s response: 0% for not so qualified buyers, plus employee pricing, and if you buy X, we’ll give you a free Cobalt!

    If GM was trying to sell its cars near sticker, they’d look a lot worse.

    The reason Toyota isn’t doing better is cause they haven’t really opened the discounting floodgates like GM did. I’m sure if they matched GM’s deals they’d be looking pretty good short term, but they have the cash to look for the long term, where the smell of desperation from red tag sales will impact the brand badly. They also have to be worried about being accused of cutthroat capitalism if they match the domestics sales.

  • avatar

    That popping noise you hear is the supply chain collapsing after realizing that even Toyota probably can’t save them now…..

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Wife and I were discussing the poor economy this past holiday weekend – seems like people are cutting back on the luxuries.

    Which makes me wonder (not for the first time) if the automakers aren’t, in some ways, their own worst enemies. All cars have gotten so good now that achieving 100k without a major repair – which used to be an acheivement – is nowadays considered an absolute base level of quality and longevity.

    What this means is that over the past decade or more, the act of buying a new vehicle when your current one only has 70 or 80k on the clock has gone from being a near-neccessity (at least if you wanted reliable transportation) to a luxury that was fueled by the easy availability of credit to just about anyone. And we all know what happens when economic times get tough – it’s the luxuries that get cut first.

    To compound this, the longevity of modern vehicles has meant that late model used cars are now the equal of new cars in terms of status and utility. When I went vehicle shopping in 2007 I didn’t even consider a new vehicle – why would I, when a late model used one was thousands less and would last me just as long? The only thing I didn’t get was the ‘new car’ smell and even that can be purchased if I really want it (I don’t.) What has happened, then, is that new car dealers are competing with (1) the cars people already own and (2) the huge supply of low mileage used cars.

    It may be that what has to happen to the US car market is similar to what has to happen to the housing market: A catastrophic readjustment that will ultimately result in a much smaller new-car market. It may be that 10 million new cars per year (vs the 13 or 14 that sold in 07 – 08) is all the US economy can support.

  • avatar

    “That popping noise you hear is the supply chain collapsing after realizing that even Toyota probably can’t save them now…..”

    I was wondering about that earlier today. With regard to Toyota, they’re sales are down both at home in Japan and Europe, as well.

    I just returned an 09 Corolla rental. It seemed rather down market versus a Civic or a Mazda 3.

  • avatar

    Well I dunno.

    765 cars per 1000 people in the US.

    Let’s say this drops to 535/1000 (30%) drop.

    So about 230 million cars on the road at the moment.

    At 535/1000 we’re looking at 160 million cars, which I think is very pessimistic. At that rate, 10/mill a year would only satisfy demand if people were keeping cars for an average of 16 (or 200,000 miles @ 12k a year) years or so by my ridiculous calculation. I don’t see people really doing that voluntarily, or even that the cars today, as good as they are, having that much of the fleet hold out to 200,000 miles.

    I don’t think demand is going to be at 10 million for the long term. But I doubt its going to be a 16 million for a while either as there is certainly a lot of excess cars to get used up.

  • avatar
    SOF in training

    toxicroach –

    I like your figures – let’s run with them.

    You’re talking about a 70 million reduction in vehicles. If that is done at only 5 million a year, that is a reduction in car sales of 5 million for 14 years. Seems pretty bleak to me.

    I sit corrected.

  • avatar

    There are so many negatives for the auto market it’s hard to keep track of them all.

    House prices falling big time so less equity to tap if any.

    Banks sitting on their bail out money because they are afraid to lend.

    As pointed out above, better quality cars last longer.

    A glutted market: Seems like nearly everyone has a nice car.

    I got another offer from GM in the mail today. They bumped up my GM card earnings from $460 to $2000 and are offering $3000 loyalty discounts. This is on top of any other discounts.

    They did the same thing last year about this time and I bought a 2008 Vibe. Then they raised the price and took equipment off the 2009’s. My Vibe only has 5500 miles on it now.

    And I just bought a Ranger in December that has about 300 miles on it now. I’ve got 5 cars/trucks altogether now. I’m not going to go for 6 even if they cut the price in half.

    Well maybe I could sell my 97 Escort wagon with 140K on it. It’s my favorite car though.

  • avatar

    Naw, bout 70 million according to my napkin backed figures. And that’s worst case, American-lifestyle changing drop in car ownership.

  • avatar

    What are the small pickup (Tacoma) numbers? Anyone know? I’ll either go in that direction for practicality or the Infinity G37, which is what I really want. I’m just Teed enough at Toyota to go with the G37.

    What’s my beef?

    At the Tacoma entry level, which is all I want and need, intermittent wipers are not standard but part of an option package, which I do not want. This in a truck called “Tacoma.” Care to guess how often intermittent wipers are needed in Tacoma???

    I can just see the marketing & sales people sitting around the table deciding how to accessorize it. Some a$$ states, as if it were true, “We’ll never lose a sale and pick up 5 bucks a unit if we leave out the intermittent wipers.” Handshakes and slaps on the back for that drone ensue.

    Wanna bet one or more of us won’t walk?

  • avatar

    Martin Albright- I think you’re on to something, cars are TOO good. It’s the real reason why they aren’t selling and the car makers need to cut production. We’ve all got perfectly good cars and we don’t need anymore.
    I think the Check Engine lights that go off all the time in VWs don’t really mean anything. They just go off to give the service people work.
    CarPerson- are you sure there are no intermittent wipers? or is it just no variable speed intermittent wipers? It might be “fixed interval” wipers. The Toyota website is confusing.

  • avatar

    My understanding is that you just can’t get credit, or at least credit at reasonable rates, unless you’ve got FICO scores over 700. If that’s not actually the case, I’m pretty sure that most folks’ understanding is close to mine.

    Bottom line, the credit situation certainly takes out 100% of the negative-equity market, which I’m sure made up a significant amount of the pre-crash market. And it takes out anyone who’s got anything resembling a substantial balance on their credit card(s) — that’ll bump you out of the 700+ range right there. Add in all the people who have actually lost jobs, and everyone else who’s worried about losing theirs, and it just boils down to a really lousy car market. I guess there’s room for a few anomalies, i.e. Subaru, but overall, you just can’t sell as many cars when most of the financing dries up and blows away.

  • avatar

    “…but they have the cash to look for the long term, where the smell of desperation from red tag sales will impact the brand badly.”

    Right. Maybe in your area of the country you didn’t get blasted like me. Saved by zero. 0% finance. Huge cash back! 1/2 off all Tundras. Toyotathon of all Toyotathons! Come on down! Please. Anybody.

    And how about Lexus? Their sales in the Toyolet. Sorry.

  • avatar

    Subaru of America sales UP .3% from 187,699 vehicles to 187,208. Who knew that the new Subaru and the uninspired Impreza would buck auto industry trends.

    The new Forester carried Subaru here this year. As a fan and owner (wife’s car) of the funkier predecessor to this now bland CUV, I’m saddened but not surprised.

  • avatar

    Bridge: Certainly not seeing half off tundras and such… I have seen 50% off of Chryslers and buy a Tahoe get a Cobalt for free deals.

    Just from what I’ve seen on TV, Toyota is offering 0%, while GM is offering 0% for 60 months and employee pricing… I’m just going off my personal observations of the offers, but I’m not seeing Toyota pushing the metal nearly as hard as GM and nowhere near Chrysler.

  • avatar

    @ toxicroach

    I’m just going off my personal observations of the offers, but I’m not seeing Toyota pushing the metal nearly as hard as GM and nowhere near Chrysler.

    Both GM’s and Chrysler’s actions in Dec would seem to be more about generating free cash from the inventory backlog. I would even suspect that many of the deals resulted in per product losses normally, but they just needed that cash real bad.

  • avatar

    Toyota has been upping the incentives lately, although they obviously have a ways to go before they reach GM and Chrysler. December is a always a tough month to get a read on because the demo and service loaner programs are abused so bad by everyone. Nevertheless, this isn’t the first month of industry average or worse performance for Toyota and that is a suprise to me.

  • avatar

    Martin Albright,
    Even if this reply comes a little late, let me say you’re hitting the nail with your post. Very few people (and least the auto industry) realize the consequences of the quality improvement. The reason is, of course everybody would like to have a new car every year. But who can really afford it? Now that we’re headed to tough times (REAL tough times, not just a bump in the road) people is more careful in their purchasing decisions. Do I really NEED a new car when I only need it for transportation and the old one, or a pre-owned one for that matter, would do it just fine? The answer is obviously no.

    Also, in tough times, people can’t afford paying more for a brand name. The quality gap between GM and Toyota, although still much more serious than the rosy picture sold by GM, has narrowed in the last few years. Therefore, when people start caring for the buck, they also start considering buying something other than Toyota, even if it’s the reviled GM (and I’m saying this as a Toyota owner). It’s just like going to the dollar store, you know you’re getting something cheap and probably not as good as a brand name offers, but as long as it does the job, you buy it. I believe that’s the reason that Toyota sales dropped more than GM’s, and maybe we will see more of that in the next few months, unless Toyota reacts to the new environment.

    That would be a remarkable thing indeed: GM and Ford (forget Chrysler) could become the equivalent of the Chinese cheap stuff that we buy at the store. Even with the burden of the UAW, incompetent management and bad products…

  • avatar

    CarPerson: I recently upgraded my fixed interval wipers on my VW Cabrio with a $25 upgraded wiper relay (VW only part). There might be a Toyota equivalent out there. Look around on the Toyota forum websites and ask them.

    I think the difference between the plainest versions and most luxury versions was just the wiper relay.

    I agree with what you said – my needs are not that great but some clever upgrades like the wiper relays was what attracted me to the imports way back when I dumped my Mustang (which did not have interval wipers at all).

    Features I have liked was express-down windows (all four), cruise, adjustable interval wipers, and good interior lighting which stays on after the door is closed a a little while. I also like the upgraded lighting packages I saw on the Euro-spec cars like the rear-fog lights (bright tail lights), headlight leveling by dash switch, side turn signals on the front fenders between the door and front tire, and so on.

    Massive V-8 power is nice, and so is the ability to storm around a track at impressive velocities but it is the little clever things that makes my daily driver more enjoyable when I’m driving around town doing errands.

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