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.