OK, the auto industry set a sales record in 1999. Everyone knows that. Is there anything new on that sales explosion?
Let's look at how the industry did it. Who starred? Who bombed? Who held steady?
The 1999 total was 16,958,267 new cars and light trucks, which wiped out the previous mark of 16,026,426 that was set in 1986. The following sales comparisons are 1999 vs. 1986.
GM: A DISASTER
The comparison shows just how far General Motors has fallen. In 1986, GM sold 6.2 million cars and light trucks. Last year, U.S. operations moved just under 5 million, a decline of 21 percent.
The picture is even grimmer on the division level: Oldsmobile, down 67 percent; Buick, down 42 percent; Cadillac, down 41 percent; Pontiac, down 27 percent; and Chevrolet, down 12 percent. And remember, the 1999 market was bigger than the 1986 market. So the industry set its 1999 record without any help from the General.
Saturn sales were a plus for GM; Saturn wasn't around in 1986. But GM's brightest light was GMC. Its sales were 70 percent higher than in 1986.
Perhaps that will silence the know-it-alls who proclaim that General Motors doesn't need a second line of trucks.
FORD: FEELING FINE
The 1999 vs. 1986 matchup was just as good for Ford Motor Co. as it was bad for GM. The industry set a record in 1999; Ford Motor set a record in 1999. What more need be said?
Well, try this: In 1999, Ford beat Chevrolet by 813,402 sales. In 1986, Chevrolet beat Ford by 226,250. That's a turnaround of more than 1 million sales in Ford's favor in 13 years.
Ford Motor sold 4,028,662 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars and light trucks last year, 18.3 percent more than in 1986. Ford Division was the heavy hitter. It was up nearly 700,000 (25 percent). Lincoln matched its 1986 sales, and Mercury was down 13 percent.
CHRYSLER: OVER THE TOP
The U.S.-badged vehicles of DaimlerChrysler also set a record in 1999. Sales of Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Jeep topped out at 2.6 million, up 25 percent from Chrysler Corp. plus Jeep in 1986. Chrysler didn't acquire Jeep until 1987, but it is included with Chrysler here in order to get Jeep in the comparison.
DaimlerChrysler dealers sold more than twice as many Jeeps last year as American Motors dealers did in 1986. Dodge sales jumped 48 percent, but Chrysler deliveries were down 11 percent, and product-starved Plymouth was 51 percent below its 1986 sales.
ASIA: A MIXED BAG
Strong as they are in the United States, not all of the Japanese makes sold more vehicles here last year than they did in the previous record year of 1986. Five were up; four were down.
Mitsubishi's sales have tripled since 1986; Acura's have doubled (1986 was Acura's first year on the U.S. market).
Honda flirted with a million sales in 1999 and promises to reach that total in 2000; its 1999 count was up 50 percent from 1986. Toyota posted a gain of 30 percent. Toyota has sold more than a million a year since 1994. Suzuki's 1999 sales showed a gain of 5 percent over 1986.
The 13-year span wasn't as kind to four other Japanese makes. Sales were down 36 percent for Mazda, 22 percent for Nissan, 19 percent for Isuzu and 14 percent for Subaru.
Lexus and Infiniti joined the Japanese contingent in 1989. No Japanese make has left the U.S. market since 1986.
Japanese-badged cars and light trucks added 4 million sales to the industry's 1999 record. They contributed 3.3 million in 1986.
Hyundai was the only Korean make sold in this country in 1986. Its 1999 and 1986 sales were about the same. Kia and Daewoo have joined the fleet, swelling Korea's representation on the sales chart.
EUROPE: GAINERS, DROPOUTS
European nameplates racked up about 969,000 sales in 1999, a gain of 28 percent over 757,000 in 1986, and several makes notched substantial gains.
Notable advances were 91 percent for Mercedes-Benz, 60 percent for BMW, 45 percent for Volkswagen and 43 percent for Jaguar. On the debit side, Porsche was down 31 percent, and Saab declined 18 percent.
Land Rover, a 1987 arrival, is the only newcomer in the European ranks, but several makes have abandoned the U.S. market since 1986 - Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Renault, Burton and Macerate. The best-selling defector was Ego, which had 35,959 sales in 1986. Ego withdrew from this country in 1993.