Chicago: US auto sales crashed again in December as the industry posted its worst year since 1992 and the Detroit Three saw their annual market share slip beneath 50% for the first time, industry data showed on Monday.
Chrysler lead the way in losses with a 53% monthly drop and Toyota, Honda, GM and Ford posted drops of 31 to 37%.
Total industry sales fell 36% in December to 896,124, which helped drag 2008 sales down 18% to 13.2 million vehicles, according to Autodata.
GM, Ford and Chrysler saw their combined market share fall to just 47.6% from 51.1% in 2007 just days after the Treasury department finalized billions in loans to help prop up cash-strapped GM and Chrysler.
The Detroit Three’s US market share topped 60% as recently as 2004 and was 71.2% ten years ago, according to Ward’s Auto.
High fuel prices pushed passenger cars sales over the 50% share mark for the first time since 2000 as truck, minivan and sport utility sales slipped to 48.8% of the US market from 53.1% in 2007.
Asian brands, led by Toyota and Honda, saw their market share increase 2.9 points to 44.6% in 2008, according to Autodata.
European brands also posted gains despite lower sales, as their share rose to 0.6 points to 7.8%.
Tight credit and growing economic uncertainty has kept consumers away from showrooms for months and December’s losses were expected to continue well into 2009.
General Motors slashed its North American production plans for the first quarter by 180,000 units to 420,000 vehicles which is down about 53% from 2007.
The largest US automaker saw December sales fall 31% to 221,983 vehicles while 2008 sales were down 23% to just under three million vehicles.
Fears of a potential bankruptcy and bad press surrounding GM’s request for a massive government bailout did impact sales, said Mark LaNeve, vice president of GM’s North American vehicle sales, service and marketing.
But GM still managed to grab a bigger piece of the US market - up 1.6 points to 24.4% in December and up 1.4 points to 23.5% in 2008, according to Autodata.
Chrysler’s share of the US market dropped 3.8 points to just 10% in December after sales plummeted by 53% to 89,813 vehicles.
Its share for 2008 dropped 1.9 points to 11% after sales fell 30% to 2.1 million vehicles.
Chrysler attributed some of the losses to a significant reduction in low-margin fleet sales, which were down 63% in December and 31% for the year.
Ford’s market share rose 0.9 points to 14.9% even as its sales fell 32% to 133,372 in December.
Ford attributed December’s gains to strong demand for its new F-150 pickup truck and a new line of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Toyota saw its share slip by 0.3 points to 15.8% in December as sales fell 37% to 141,949 vehicles but maintained its number two spot in the US market.
It managed to increase its share for 2008 by 0.5 points to 16.7% despite a 16% drop in sales to 2.2 million vehicles.
Honda increased its share by 0.1 points to 9.6% despite a 34.7% drop in December sales to 86,085.
Its share rose 1.2 points to 10.8% in 2008 despite an 8% drop in annual sales to 1.4 million vehicles.