Do you want to know how bad U.S. sales are this year? They're so bad that even crossovers are down.
You know crossovers. They're the station wagons of the 21st century, and their sales have been rising steadily — but not anymore.
In the past four months (May-August), crossover sales have tumbled 12.0 percent compared with 2007. August showed a decline of 9.2 percent from last year although, on the plus side, August's sales were 18.8 percent higher than July's.
In the first four months of this year, crossover sales were still heading upward. They showed an increase of 4.1 percent.
For the first eight months of 2008, crossovers were down only 4.4 percent from 2007. That's a mighty good showing for vehicles that are classified as trucks. Big pickups, for example, were off 24.5 percent, and SUVs were in a state of near-collapse, down 33.1 percent.
Small cars were up 8.2 percent for the period, but only mid-sized cars had a lighter loss than crossovers. The middies were down 3.4 percent.
Crossovers, which are built on car platforms, have a lot to recommend them in today's brutally competitive market. Compared with their big brothers, the SUVs, crossovers are easier on gasoline, more comfortable, and easier to get into and out of — and they sure are a lot prettier.
So why are crossover sales dipping? The automotive recession is a big factor, of course, but I'd like to suggest another reason: There are just too darn many crossovers out there. Would-be customers are confused, and it's hard to make a buyer out of a confused shopper.
Everybody wants to get into the act. It's similar to the mad dash to SUVs a few years ago when those monsters were the darlings of the industry.
In August, 46 crossover nameplates appeared on the sales chart, three more than a year ago. The 46 nameplates were offered by 28 brands of vehicles; thus several makes have more than one entry.
Is it any wonder customers are confused?
The new offerings are the Ford Flex, Dodge Journey and Kia Borrego. Soon to come is the Chevrolet Traverse. And there will be more.
My advice? Think twice before throwing another crossover into the melting pot. Unless it's a guaranteed, can't-miss winner, forget it.