The monthly sales report for cars and trucks is a gold mine for the lover of automotive trivia. Every number has a story to tell. Here are some of those stories.
STRUGGLING FOR PARITY
Since January, light trucks have slipped back a smidgen in their quest for 50 percent of new-vehicle sales. After capturing 45.3 percent of the market in 1997, light trucks took 48.2 percent in January. Since then, truck shares have been 46.1 percent in February, 47.0 percent in March and 47.4 percent in April.
TWICE AS MANY
In April, Volkswagen dealers sold 4,870 New Beetles, slightly more than twice as many as the 2,365 they delivered in March, the car's first month on the market.
Let's see, now. If the New Beetle continues to double sales every month, nearly 2.5 million will have been sold by Dec. 31.
At 2.5 million, the New Beetle would match the total U.S. sales of Japanese cars. It would be close to General Motors' U.S. car sales, and it would exceed the U.S. volume of Ford Motor Co. and Daimler-Chrysler AG combined.
Volkswagen of America is delighted with its New Beetle, but it has no such grandiose hopes.
SALES HAVE DOUBLED
Seven car nameplates doubled their sales in the first four months of this year.
They are the Kia Sephia, Suzuki Esteem, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Corvette and Malibu, Buick Century and Oldsmobile Cutlass.
The gains for the Century, Cutlass and Malibu are magnified, however, by the comparison to especially weak sales a year earlier.
The three were introduced around Jan. 1, 1997, and availability was limited during the first quarter. Supplies of the Cutlass and the Malibu were further restricted by a strike at GM's Oklahoma City assembly plant, sole source of those cars.
OLDS MOVES UP
Oldsmobile has topped its 1997 sales in three of the four months this year - every month except February, which brought a dip of 0.6 percent. For the year to date, Olds sales are up 10.2 percent.
Volume is not what Olds people would like, but any increase is like a waterfall in the desert for an outfit that has suffered so cruelly during the last decade. The Alero bows next month, and Oldsmobile predicts an 18 percent sales increase.
DURANGO DOES THE JOB
Dodge's new Durango sport-utility is more than living up to Chrysler Corp.'s expectations. Sales totaled 45,073 for the first four months of 1998, which is a rate of travel of about 135,000 for the year. Chrysler has even bigger plans - a down-the-road total of 200,000 annually.