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US market rallies in December

Ford fighter: Ford's F-Series might be well past its glory days, but it was still America's top-selling truck in 2009.

American motor companies buoyed by 15 per cent sales jump as dud year ends

General News logo7 Jan 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

IN a finish to 2009 that was uncannily similar to the Australian experience, United States car companies bid goodbye to a lousy year with much-improved December sales, raising hopes that the depressed market can hope for much better in 2010.

Compared with December 2008, sales of light vehicles in the US rose 15 per cent – similar to Australia’s 15.9 per cent year-on-year jump for the final month of the year.

But while Australia’s market ended the full year down 7.4 per cent, the December flourish in the US could only drag the 12-month performance up to 10.4 million units – still 21 per cent short of 2008’s tally and the lowest since 1982.

Ford and Toyota were the big winners in December, with sales up 33 and 32 per cent respectively over their December 2008 performances.

Market leader General Motors failed to join the party, slipping a disappointing seven per cent after seemingly pulling out of its dive in November.

Over the course of 2009, GM lost more than 900,000 sales, its volumes plummeting 30 per cent from 2.95 million units in 2008 to 2.07 million last year.

Toyota came in second for the year, at 1.77 million units (including Lexus) – down 20 per cent year on year – with Ford arriving at December 31 with the least damage, down 16 per cent to take third place with 1.677 units.

 center imageLeft: Ford Escape Hybrid. Below: Subaru Legacy GT.

Ford was buoyed by red-hot sales of its new Fusion (up 83 per cent) and Escape SUV (up 75 per cent), helping it to make its first market share gain since 1995 when the Japanese transplants started to bite.

It also took comfort from the fact that its F-Series pick-up was America’s top-selling truck for the 33rd year in a row, with Blue Oval dealers unloading 413,625 units. However, this was well down on 2008’s 515,513 units, and well short of its peak of 939,511 in 2004.

Chrysler took the biggest hit of the Detroit ‘Big Three’, diving 36 per cent in 2009 to 931,402 units.

Like fellow bankrupt GM, Chrysler also failed to make up ground in December, with sales falling four per cent over December 2008 when the US market was already at its lowest ebb for almost three decades.

To make matters worse, Honda ousted Chrysler from fourth place, selling 1.1 million vehicles, despite a 19 per cent decline in 2009. Honda was also one of the big winners in December, enjoying a 24 per cent boost over the corresponding month last year.

Like Honda, Nissan sales fell 19 per cent, for a 12-month total of 770,103 units, to retain sixth place.

In another similarity with the Australian market, Hyundai was the big mover in the US in 2009, up eight per cent over the previous year to 435,064 units. The Santa Fe was one of the vehicles to hit the spot, up about 14 per cent on the previous year.

Its subsidiary, Kia, added a further 300,000 units to the tally, making Hyundai Group the new heavyweight in one of the world’s biggest markets.

With a 15 per cent sales gain in 2009, Subaru passed Mazda in the sales race, outselling its fellow Japanese company 216,652 units to 207,767.

Subaru was boosted by excellent customer reception for its new Legacy (Liberty) and Outback rangesSuzuki was the big loser, down 54 per cent for the year, to just 38,687 units.

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