It was a banner sales year for the U.S. industry, but 2004 won't get the credit it deserves.
That's because the industry is becoming sated with banner years. The last six years have been the best sales years ever.
Last year ranks fourth on that elite list with 16,912,613 sales. It wasn't quite as good as 2000, 2001 or 1999, but it was better than any other year in the 109-year history of the industry in the United States.
Sales in 2004 were 1.4 percent higher than in 2003, and it was the first time since 2000 that sales exceeded those of the previous year. The increase was the result of a blockbuster December.
December's total was 1,542,732. Any time sales top 1.5 million, it's a blockbuster month. December was a solid 7.7 percent better than December 2003.
Combined market share of the domestic-badged vehicles of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group continued to dwindle. It was 58.7 percent for the year, down 1.6 percentage points from 2003.
Although the overall market expanded, the Big 3 sold about 120,000 fewer domestic cars and trucks than in 2003. In 1994, the Big 3 had 73.2 percent of the market. Here are some subplots that jump out from the recent sales numbers: