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Economy in Brief

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales Inched Up in December; Down 18.5% For The Full Year
by Tom Moeller January 6, 2009

U.S. sales of light vehicles inched slightly higher last month but not by enough to prevent the twelve-month sales average from falling 18.5% to 13.18M, their lowest since 1993 according to the Autodata Corporation and Ward's Automotive News. (Seasonal adjustment of the figures is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). The December-to-December figures were even bleaker. The 35.5% decline dropped sales to 10.32M, their lowest level since the recession year of 1982. The level of sales for December vehicle purchases was slightly better than Consensus expectations for sales of 10.0M.

Sales of domestically-made light vehicles edged 2.4% higher to 7.68M units and that recouped the November drop. Nevertheless, domestic vehicle sales are off 35.3% December-to-December and they fell 20.2% for the full year to their lowest since 1983. Continuing to show the effects from higher gasoline prices, sales of domestically made light trucks gave back most of their November gain to end the year down 39.6% December-to-December. They were down by one quarter for the full year. Doing a little better, sales of U.S. made cars recovered their November decline and rose 10.6%. That was not enough, however, to make up past declines. For the full year, sales of domestically made cars fell 12.7% to 4.42M units and that was down 41.3% from the peak during 1996.

Sales of imported light vehicles continued to reflect economic recession in the U.S. and they fell 1.3% last month. The 36.0% y/y decline pulled sales for the full year down 13.2%, the first full year decline since 1996. The latest was the lowest level since December 1999.Sales of imported light vehicles fell another 5.0% (-38.4% y/y) to 1.62M units and they were down 9.1% for the full year.Sales of imported light trucks rose 5.2% (-31.8% y/y) but they were off 20.1% for 2008. For last year, imported car sales fell 9.1% from 2007 but at 2.29M they still were up 79.7% from the low in 1996.

Import's share of the U.S. light vehicle market fell slightly to 25.5% of the U.S. vehicle market in December. Nevertheless, imports' share rose to a high of 26.3% for the year. (Imported vehicles are those produced outside the U.S. and do not include vehicles with the nameplate of a foreign manufacturer produced within the U.S.)

Light Vehicle Sales (SAAR, Mil. Units) December November Dec. / Dec. 2008 2007 2006
Total 10.32 10.18 -35.5% 13.18 16.16 16.54
  Autos 5.21 4.95 -32.6 6.71 7.58 7.77
    Domestic 3.59 3.24 -29.5 4.42 5.07 5.31
    Imported 1.62 1.71 -38.4 2.29 2.52 2.45
  Light Trucks 5.11 5.23 -38.2 6.47 8.60 8.78
    Domestic 4.10 4.26 -39.6 5.29 7.10 7.42
    Imported 1.02 0.97 -31.8 1.18 1.47 1.37
  December 2008 (Y/Y, %) Market Share, Cars (%) Market Share, Trucks (%)
General Motors -24.9 16 25
Ford  -29.4 11 22
Chrysler  -59.2 6 17
Toyota  -34.8 21 14
Honda  -30.4 13 8
Nissan  -26.8 8 5
Volkswagen -20.1 5 1
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