JOHN K. TEAHEN JR.

SALES TALES: 2008 sales forecast? 14,652,757

John K. Teahen Jr. is the senior editor of Automotive News.
Fortunately, the first half of 2008 is over. Unfortunately, the second half looks worse than the first. Not much worse, but worse.

If you're looking for a full-year sales number, try this on for size: 14,652,757. That is my number, and it's not exactly a wild guess. It is based on a 10-year analysis of first-half and second-half sales.

In those 10 years, first-half sales have accounted for 50.6 percent of the full-year total. Applying that percentage of this year's first-half count of 7,414,295 gives the above-mentioned 14,652,757.

That is not a jump-for-joy number. It would be down 9.3 percent from 2007's tally of 16,154,450. But in view of this year's May-June sales collapse, the industry should be quite content with 14.6 million. The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for June was 13.1 million deliveries.

Taking the projection a step further, I tag the 14.6 million to include 7.8 million cars and 6.8 million trucks. It would be the first time since 2001 that cars have outsold trucks.

How deep is the ocean?

How deep is the pit that the Detroit 3 are struggling to climb out of?

In June, the local forces had just 45.8 percent of the market. In May, they had only 44.4 percent.

The six-month figure was just as dreary. The Detroiters had only 47.9 percent in the first half.

It is not a happy situation when more than half the buyers on your home turf are snubbing your products.

Cars outsold trucks in June, but not all small cars were winners. Sales of the Chevrolet Aveo fell 19.7 percent. A 2009 model is shown.

Short supply?

It may be a case of demand outstripping supply, but some of the smallest cars posted ordinary sales numbers in June. The Pontiac G5 was up only 4.2 percent over last year. And the Kia Rio gained just 5.2 percent.

Some of the little guys even lost ground, like the Chevrolet Aveo, down 19.7 percent; Toyota Yaris, 7.5 percent; and Ford Focus, 5.5 percent.

But don't overlook the big winners, like the Honda Fit, up 78.2 percent; Hyundai Accent, up 70.0 percent; and Hyundai Elantra, up 50.6 percent. And Suzuki reported that sales of its Aerio/SX4 nearly tripled in June.

As a group, small cars were up 7.3 percent for June and 9.7 percent for the first half.

You can reach John K. Teahen Jr. at autonews@crain.com

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