In the world of car and light-truck sales, the past five years have been the best five years in the history of the auto industry in the United States.
Before long, we'll be able to say the past six years have been the best six years in the history of the auto industry in the United States.
After nine months of this year, U.S. sales were 1.3 percent ahead of 2003 sales, which leads to an estimate of nearly 16.9 million for this year. That would put 2004 fifth on the honor roll.
But it's a different industry than it was in 1999 when the string of records began. In 1999, cars had 51.6 percent of the U.S. market. For the first nine months of this year, cars had 45.9 percent. That's a frightening loss in just five years.
Five years ago, the Big 3's North American brands held 68.5 percent of the U.S. market. Today, it's 59.1 percent. Do the arithmetic; that's 9.4 percentage points.
All references to the Big 3 in this story exclude their foreign subsidiaries.
The news isn't good for the three domestic makers. The market share loss has been severe for Ford Motor Co. - 5.4 percentage points in five years. Ford now has only 18.4 percent of the U.S. market.
The Chrysler group and General Motors also are down, but their losses are not as scary as Ford's - 2.6 points for Chrysler and 1.5 points for GM.