General Motors, Ford Motor Co., American Honda and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. all reported sales declines of more than 31 percent in December as the U.S. auto industry capped its worst year since 1992.
GMs plunge dragged its annual total to levels not seen since 1959, and Fords year-end total was the lowest since 1961. American Honda and Toyota were down more than 30 percent for the second straight month, and Nissan North America for the fourth. Chrysler LLC dropped 53.1 percent.
The industrys December total fell 35.6 percent from year-earlier levels despite rising incentives. It marked the fourth-straight monthly tumble of more than 25 percent amid the longest U.S. recession since the early 1980s and a national debate over whether the federal government should rescue GM and Chrysler.
Automakers average incentive rose to $2,902 per vehicle in December, according to Edmunds.com. Thats up 8 percent from November and 18 percent from the year-earlier figure.
People are not ready to make those big-ticket purchases, said Stephen Spivey, a Frost & Sullivan analyst, in an interview. They want to see if they have a job next week, next month, next year.
The results topped the forecasts of some analysts who had projected that sales on an annual basis would drop below 10 million. Decembers preliminary 10.4 million seasonally adjusted rate was up from Novembers 10.3 million, the lowest in 26 years.
For the year, U.S. sales fell 18 percent to a preliminary total of 13.2 million, down from 16.2 million in 2007. It was the lowest annual figure since 1992, when the U.S. was pulling out of another recession.
Among the five biggest automakers in the United States, GMs 31.2 percent December decline was the least severe. The company was aided by demand for the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Enclave. Toyota, which placed No. 2 in the U.S. ahead of Ford for the second straight year, fell 36.7 percent for the month. Ford was down 34.4 percent.
Chrysler hung on to its No. 4 ranking in U.S. sales, about 24,000 units ahead of American Honda. Honda was down 34.7 percent in December.