The year 2000 was the biggest in the history of the U.S. auto industry. Sales topped 17.4 million units. General Motors and Ford were in high gear. Demand for big SUVs was through the roof.
But that was then, and this is now.
Indeed, plenty has changed since we rang in the millennium, although with sales of 16,994,655 units in 2005, the U.S. market is still robust.
Here are some of the most significant market shifts over the past six years.
1. SUVs slide
Sales of large and medium SUVs in 2005 were 321,581 units lower than in 2000.
The big decline came last year. Large SUVs dropped off the table - down 212,042 units from 2004, to 820,576. That's a decline of 20.5 percent. Medium SUVs also plunged - by 378,245 units, to 1,311,559 in 2005.
"The big SUVs were oversold because of a few desperate domestic car companies," says Dan Gorrell, analyst for Strategic Vision in San Diego. "They were bound to decline. They milked that cow dry."
2. Crossovers soar
In place of large SUVs have come crossovers. In 2000, 436,351 cross-
overs were sold in the United States, with the Honda CR-V leading the way. By 2005, the segment had ballooned to 1,880,593, with the Ford Escape topping the list.
"Crossovers are just a natural evolution of the automotive market from SUVs," Gorrell says. "SUVs had their shortcomings, and these new blends of attributes give you the best of both worlds."
3. Hybrids go mainstream
In 2000, hybrid-powered vehicles were barely on the radar screen. Toyota sold 5,562 units of the Prius in the United States that year, and Honda moved 3,788 Insights.
Fast forward to 2005: Toyota sold 107,897 Priuses. Honda sold 25,864 Civic Hybrids and 16,826 Accord Hybrids.
Toyota doesn't break out sales of its other hybrid models. Neither do Ford and General Motors detail hybrid sales. But Edmunds.com says hybrids of all makes accounted for 176,507 sales in 2005.
4. Small cars revive
High fuel prices boosted sales of small cars in 2005 by about 100,000 units over 2004. Small-car nameplates, such as the Chevrolet Aveo and Toyota Corolla, racked up 1,761,006 sales in 2005. In 2004, 1,660,362 economy cars were sold. Still, both numbers were below the 1,882,984 small cars sold in 2000.
But new models are on the horizon, and continuing high fuel prices bode well for the segment. Says Toprak: "If you look at the products, it's changed quite a bit. It used to be if you
couldn't afford anything else, you would buy a compact car. Now that's not the case. Now they're very fashionable, desirable products, like the Scion."
5. Luxury lives
Luxury brands such as BMW and Lexus have flexed their muscles during this decade. Sales of luxury nameplates are up from a 7.9 percent (1,366,926) share of the market in 2000 to 9.8 percent in 2005 (1,659,514).
"The fact that luxury brands are up is very consistent with the aging of the population," Gorrell says. "Where there's wealth and discretionary income available, they do well."
6. Pickups are stable
High fuel prices did not dent sales of full-sized pickups last year. The segment grew from 2,456,656 in 2004 to 2,461,222 in 2005. But that is still well ahead of the 2000 figure of 2,189,061.
"They're stable and will continue to be stable because of the functionality of these vehicles," Toprak says. "The simple utility of these vehicles gives some confidence to automakers, especially the domestic Big 3, as far as stability of segments."
7. Korean Tigers rise
Hyundai and Kia have blossomed since 2000. The Korean twosome sold 730,863 units in 2005, up from 404,997 in 2000.
Indeed, Hyundai passed Pontiac in sales in 2005.
"They had great product and were able to prove to consumers they could make quality products that will rival those of the Japanese automakers," Toprak says.
8. Jaguar's in a quagmire
Jaguar started the decade with high hopes and big ambitions to rival BMW and Mercedes-Benz as a luxury powerhouse. No such luck. U.S. sales for Ford's British luxury brand plunged 33.7 percent in 2005 to 30,424 units, compared with the year before. That's less than half of Jag's record 61,204 in 2002. The X-Type sedan simply hasn't cut it, down 49.2 percent last year to 10,941 compared with 2004.