The monthly sales report is a gold mine for lovers of automotive facts and figures. Every number has a story to tell. Here are some of those stories.
TRUCKS AND MORE TRUCKS
Light trucks opened the new year on a high note by grabbing 49.7 percent of the new-vehicle market. The only 1998 month that topped that figure was November, with 50.6 percent.
For calendar 1998, the light-truck share was a record 47.5 percent, the 17th consecutive year of growth in market penetration. That left 52.5 percent for cars last year. Barring a major shift in American buying habits, light trucks soon will dominate the sales charts.
It wasn't always that way. Light trucks topped 10 percent of the market for the first time in 1918 and generally stayed in the low teens (1924 and 1928 were under 10 percent) until after World War II. They flirted with 20 percent (19.8) in 1946 as businesses replaced vehicles that had worn out during the war.
Light trucks took only 10 percent of light-vehicle sales in 1953 and stayed under 10 percent for the next seven years. In unit sales, they didn't reach 1 million until 1964.
The first year of 20 percent market share was 1974, when light trucks snagged 21.9 percent. Penetration slipped slightly below 20 percent in the recession years of 1980 and 1981 and then began an uninterrupted climb. The figure topped 30 percent in 1987 and exceeded 40 percent in 1994.
In that stretch, volume reached 4 million in 1985, 5 million in 1993, 6 million in 1994 and the high point of 7,412,061 last year.
LUXURY'S BIG 3
Forget about Cadillac and Lincoln in charting the luxury-class leaders for January. Lincoln finished a poor fourth, and Cadillac wound up an even poorer fifth.
The top sellers were Mercedes-Benz, 12,225; Lexus, 11,379; and BMW, 10,135.
Cadillac reported sales of 3,642 Escalade sport-utilities in December. Cadillac reported sales of 225 Escalade sport-utilities in January.
FORD IS THE KING
Who's No. 1 in the U.S. market? In January, Ford was so far ahead that you almost could say there was no second place.
In cars, it was Ford, with 63,803, about 15 percent more than Chevrolet's 55,715. Chevy wasn't very far ahead of Toyota (51,900) and Honda (50,081).
In light trucks, it was Ford, with 160,330; Chevrolet had 104,188. Ford dealers delivered 1.5 trucks for every one that left a Chevy showroom.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
In the first month of this year, 85.6 percent of the cars and light trucks sold in the United States were made in North America. Nine percent came from Japan, 3.8 percent from Europe and 1.6 percent from South Korea.
The North American share includes vehicles made in the United States, Canada and Mexico by General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, BMW and the Japanese companies and sold in the United States.