Winners and Losers in 2009

Big 7 Auto Sales, December 2009 (unadjusted)

U.S. car sales numbers are coming in, and if you’ve been following the ongoing disasters in autodom, there won’t be too many surprises here. The best news came in December, as things began to improve, particularly for Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai.

For Audi, December saw sales up 17.1 percent, and the company claimed “the biggest 2009 U.S. market share gain of any imported luxury car brand,” which translates to around 8 percent of the U.S. lux-car market. People also bought more TDI diesels, Q7s and A3s, in 2009. As the table below shows, Audi sales were down 5.7 percent for the year, which surely ain’t bad, all things considered.

2009 Sales, Top 10 (%)*
2009 Sales, Bottom 10 (%)*
Subaru +15 Cadillac -32.3
Kia +9.8 Pontiac -33.3
Hyundai +8 Dodge -34
Volkswagen -4.3 Smart -40.7
Audi -5.7 Mitsubishi -44.5
Ford -14.3 Chrysler -47
Mercedes-Benz -15.3 Suzuki -54
Volvo -16 Saab -59.4
MINI -16 Saturn -61.4
Lexus -17 Hummer -67.1
*adapted from Autospies figures; see also Inside Line.

Can you believe Subaru finished up 15 percent? There is a story here that nobody in the auto press has properly covered (at least that I’ve seen).

In Japan, the bestselling car by far was the Toyota Prius, up nearly 300 percent over a year ago, with 208,876 vehicles sold. The Honda Fit was way behind in second place with 157,324 cars; the Toyota Vitz was third with 117,655. Of the other hybrids, Honda’s Insight was fifth, with 93,283 cars sold. Let us remember, as TTAC author Bertel Schmitt pointed out, hybrids are tax-exempt in Japan.

Our lead prognosticator tgriffith noted today that unless gas prices start climbing again, which is doubtful, hybrids and micro cars will be a tough sell. It’s hard to believe that the Prius will continue to zoom ahead in Japan, where the market must be nearing saturation. In the U.S., however, my humble opinion is that there is room to grow, and green cars will become a more viable niche. It all depends on whether the companies are willing to put serious money into marketing them.

Can and should auto industry leaders do more to promote green cars? Will green cars make them more green (money)?



  1. Hyundai has produced brilliant diesel engines of late and share those powerplants with Kia These are sold world wide and value for money are pretty hard to beat. Hybrids might be flovour of the week in some peoples minds but their fuel economy isnt as good as similar size diesel cars and are far too expensive/complicated to be worth the trouble.

  2. Hmm. Up to now I always believed you were a tree hugger nonpareil. Now I can confirm that. I must agree with your colleague that there is little to no market for sardine cans, at least with gasoline less than $3. Hell, even in Japan, the cost is “only $4.25” which might explain the Prius’s success.

    I also can’t believe that you are stunned by the success of Kia, Hyundai, and Subaru. You have been so busy morphing into a greenie that you’ve obviously missed the tremendous improvements in these vehicles. All 3 are built in America (Illinois, Georgia and Alabama)and have been producing world class vehicles since 2005. I’ve owned a 2006 Kia Sportage, 2008 Hyundai Sonata, and a 2010 Subaru Forester and have been pleased as one can be with all three. The brand new (out this year) Outback just might be the best affordable SUV in the market right now.

    As to your personal green agenda, I would ask you a simple economic question. Who in their right mind is going to spend money making sardine cans that no one will buy and which are loss leaders for the manufacturer?? Is this your Sorbonne economic model?? C’mon jgoods, fess up and admit that you have this green thing all wrong!! To have your dream come true will require massive subsidies and you know where I stand on that issue, right??

  3. True enough, you get enough media to say a Prius is what all your friends are driving, and you’ve nabbed probably %75 of the US market (sadly).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.