Automakers Look Back On Wreckage Of '09

car dealershipWhen 2009 ends next week, automakers will look back at a loss of at least 6 million units of sales volume versus the mid-2000's, when the industry routinely sold 16 million vehicles each year. That 36.4% drop means the volume this year will be about what it was in 1970, when there were about 70 million fewer people in the U.S., notes auto research and shopping site

Incentive spending didn't help either -- at least not the domestics or Japanese brands, per the L.A.-based firm. Although the domestic automakers spent $3,801 per vehicle on incentives -- a 6.3% increase -- their market share fell 7.3% this year. Japanese automakers spent $1,664 per vehicle -- up 15.8% -- while their share only rose 1.8%, per Edmunds. The Seoul brothers (Kia and Hyundai) also radically boosted incentive spend by 31.8%. However, they saw their share increase 41.8%. European automakers upped incentive spend 19.5% and saw market share rise by 7.7%.



It is hoped that December will be a bellwether for 2010. New-vehicle retail sales are expected to increase by double digits versus the year-ago month, according to J.D. Power & Associates' Power Information Network, a real-time aggregator of dealer-transaction info. The firm says automakers will sell around 839,600 units this month at dealerships, or 1.03 million vehicles if fleet is included, a 7% improvement over last December.

"The market is continuing to improve, with the relative strength of December sales supporting a year-end rally," said Gary Dilts, SVP of global automotive operations at the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company, in a release.

The biggest beneficiaries of the market's vicissitudes were Subaru, Hyundai, and VW. The biggest losers, per Edmunds, were Chrysler, GM and Mitsubishi. Subaru, although a niche player in the U.S., still doubled its share this year to around 2.1%. Hyundai -- which this year took the bear by the horns with the Hyundai Assurance program, its value proposition and well-received vehicles like the Genesis -- pushed its share up 40.4% to 7.3%. Edmunds says VW's share rose 23.3% to 2.1%.

Chrysler Group, which emerged from bankruptcy solidly controlled by Fiat, lost 18.7% of its share of the U.S. market this year versus last. General Motors has lost 10.6% of its market share. Mitsubishi, whose brand has been evanescing in this country, has lost 29.7% of its share in 2009 compared to 2008, per Edmunds. Suzuki -- whose hopes are riding on its entirely new Kizashi sedan, a car that heralds a new design, performance and marketing direction for the automaker -- had better act fast, as its market share dropped 40.5% in the U.S. this year.

And consumers' hunger for fuel-efficient cars only went so far this year, as gasoline prices fell about 32% from 2008's record prices. Although there was a spike in late summer because of the government's Cash for Clunkers program, the general trend was lackluster sales of tiny cars.

The compact car market share was 16.1% in January, reached 22.9% in August and has since declined to 14.4%. Similarly, subcompacts were 3.6% at the beginning of the year, rose to a record high of 6.2% in August and dropped back down to 3.6% in November, per Edmunds.

That doesn't mean that the bloom is off the hybrid and electric market. Next year will be an active one for alternative power-train vehicles. High-end electric carmaker Tesla, the new competitor Koda, Nissan, Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota are all launching electric, hybrid plug-in or extended-range hybrids over the next two years. The subcompact market will become even more crowded as several automakers from Scion to GM, and a new player, Mahindra, bring new matchbox cars to the U.S. market.

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