Time to assess the damage.
For starters, the first half was the worst the U.S. auto industry has seen since the January-June period of 1993. This year, sales totaled 7,414,295, down 10.1 percent from a year ago.
June was the capper. Sales plunged 18.3 percent from last year to 1,189,577, the lowest for that month since 1991.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for June was 13.1 million vehicles, down from 15.1 million at the end of May. Keep in mind that actual sales for 2007 were 16.2 million. If you're wondering whether the auto industry is in a recession, wonder no more.
Even the high-flying Japanese have been grounded this year. And 2008 has been an unmitigated disaster for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. The fuel-price crisis made their SUVs and big pickups all but unsellable.
Put it this way: The Detroit 3 combined have been selling an average of 121,539 fewer new domestic vehicles a month in 2008 than they did in the first half of 2007. True, the U.S. companies have been trending downward for the entire decade. But their combined share loss in the first half of 2008 was 4 percentage points, to 47.9 percent. It was the largest first-half dip in more than 20 years.
For six months, the Detroiters sold 3,550,020 new domestic cars and light trucks, down 17.0 percent from last year. In June, they sold 544,375, a dip of 25.5 percent from a year ago. They had 45.8 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market in June. That wasn't quite as bad as May's 44.4 percent, but it was the second straight month that the U.S. automakers have had less than half of their home market.
Meanwhile, the Japanese are about to crack 40 percent market share. They piled on 2.9 percentage points to 39.4 percent in the first half despite a 2.9 percent decline in unit sales.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. saw its sales slip 6.8 percent in the first half yet gained market share. The big winner was American Honda Motor Co., which crashed through the 10 percent market share barrier. On the strength of a 4.1 percent unit sales increase, Honda and Acura climbed from 9.3 percent share in the first half of 2007 to 10.8 percent this year. (Acura didn't help; it was down 14.9 percent).
American Honda is poised to catch Chrysler LLC. In June, American Honda outsold Chrysler 142,539 to 117,457 and finished the first half about 70,000 units behind Chrysler. By way of comparison, American Honda was nearly 350,000 units behind Chrysler after the first six months of 2007.
Hyundai and Kia also are gaining share. In June, Honda, Hyundai and Kia were the only top 10 brands to improve on their June 2007 performance.
Last month, Kia bumped Chrysler Division out of the top 10. Hyundai division zipped past Pontiac and GMC with its first 50,000-unit sales month.
All told, Hyundai-Kia Automotive gained a half-point of share in the first half, to 5.2 percent.