When the Detroit 3's U.S. sales decline for the month, the typical reaction is: So what else is new? But when the sales of the Japanese Big 3 — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — also drop, the situation merits closer examination.
And when 31 of the 38 major brands on the Automotive News sales chart take a bath, the condition is critical indeed.
That's what happened in March. Any way you look at it, last month was terrible for the U.S. auto industry. Sales of new cars and light trucks totaled 1,357,281 units, down 12.0 percent from March 2007. It was the industry's worst March since 1993.
Truck sales plunged 17.8 percent from the year-ago month and were the lowest for March since 1998. Car sales beat truck sales — but at 702,954 units, they were the lowest for March in more than a quarter-century.
Unit sales for the first quarter checked in at 3,578,680 cars and trucks, an 8.0 percent drop from the year-ago quarter. First-quarter deliveries haven't been that low since 1998.