What a disastrous decade it has been for the Detroit 3 — a nine-year downward spiral that has seen more than 5 million units of sales disappear for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.
At the end of 2008, Detroit 3 sales were barely more than half of what they were when the decade began.
In 2000, GM, Ford Motor and the Chrysler portion of DaimlerChrysler sold 11,642,654 vehicles in the United States. Last year, GM, Ford and Chrysler LLC sold 6,410,220 units, a 45 percent nose dive.
And the automakers expect even lower U.S. volume in 2009. If the Detroit 3 capture half of the U.S. market, anything below 12 million in industry sales would push them below half of their 2000 volume. GM's forecast range is as low as 10.5 million. Chrysler CFO Ron Kolka predicts 11.1 million. Ford is the most optimistic at 12.2 million.
Total market volume last year was 13.2 million units, 4.2 million below the peak U.S. sales year of 17.4 million in 2000.
But the Detroit 3 lost another million beyond that. At the same time, their three main U.S. rivals — Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Nissan — gained about a million units of annual sales. And the rest — all other Japanese, Korean and European brands — held their unit sales steady, collectively boosting their market share 4.1 points in a down market to 16.9 percent.
How big is the Detroit 3's 5.2 million-unit loss?
-- It's more than the 4.9 million U.S. sales GM had in 2000.
-- It's more than the combined U.S. sales of GM and Ford last year.
-- It's larger than last year's combined U.S. sales of Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
The almost 20-point shift in Detroit's market share — to 48.4 percent last year from 66.9 percent in 2000 — has had a huge effect on the Detroit 3 and their suppliers and dealers, especially the loss in efficiencies of scale.
As volume fell, GM, Ford and Chrysler have responded by cutting models and reducing manufacturing complexity. They have cut production capacity by permanently closing plants and temporarily eliminating shifts or reducing line speeds.
Their supply base has slashed capacity and closed hundreds of North American plants. Most Detroit 3 suppliers have pursued business outside North America and from foreign-based manufacturers expanding in North America.
Hundreds of Detroit 3 dealers have closed, and even more have consolidated several Detroit 3 brands into single stores. The manufacturers have helped or encouraged many of these moves.
Ford and GM both have placed even more emphasis on global operations. Global sales for 2008 are not yet available, but both automakers expanded non-U.S. sales between 2000 and 2007.
GM gained 1.4 million units in 2007, to 5.1 million non-U.S. sales or 38 percent growth. Ford grew a quarter of a million units or 8 percent to 3.4 million outside the United States.
Annual U.S. sales of vehicles built in North America have fallen by 4.7 million vehicles — to 9.9 million last year from 14.6 million in 2000. That's because of sales of more vehicles imported from Europe and Asia.
The 2.8 million imports sold in 2000 were only 16.3 percent of the U.S. market. Last year, 3.4 million imports accounted for more than a quarter of the market.