The first quarter of 2009 is history, and we can all pause for a moment and utter a fervent good riddance. But we cant escape the sales numbers, so lets take a final look.
Was there anything good about the first three months of 2009? Since were grasping at straws, lets note that Februarys sales were better than Januarys, and Marchs were better than Februarys. But, heck, that has happened every year since 1991. Aside from that, the quarter was a bummer.
Sales declined 38.4 percent, and that followed an 8.0 percent dip in the first quarter of 2008. The Detroit 3s domestic sales fell an astounding 46.2 percent. Import brand sales were down 30.6 percent -- not as bad as Detroits, but not exactly good.
Each of the Detroit 3 was down more than 44 percent for the quarter. Each of Japans Big 3 tumbled at least 34 percent. Japans Big 3 are Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America.
General Motors was the sickest of the sick in the first quarter, down 48.8 percent. Toyota Motor Sales led the Japanese in futility with a loss of 37.1 percent.
The Detroit 3 still havent returned to the car business. They sold only 345,755 cars in three months, down 49.4 percent from 2008. Even more distressing, Detroit had only 30.2 percent of the nations car sales in January, February and March. Bad things happen when you ignore cars for a decade and a half, as GM, Ford and Chrysler did.
Market share? You dont want to know. The Detroit 3 had only 43.8 percent of U.S. car and light-truck sales in the first quarter. That means 56.2 percent of the market is controlled by foreign companies.
Had enough? So have I. Lets look at something else.
F as in first
Bad as the quarter was for the Detroit 3, they still hold the first two spots in sales. At the top of the heap, as it has been for more than 30 years, was the Ford F-series pickup, with 81,579 deliveries. The Chevrolet Silverado pickup was second -- a far distant second -- with 67,283.
Thats the good news. The bad news is that the year-ago numbers were F series, 148,138; Silverado, 122,779 – so thats a drop of 44.9 percent for the F series and 45.2 percent for the Silverado.
In cars, the Toyota Camry retained its dominance with a lead of 7,601 over the second-place Toyota Corolla/Matrix.
Only in trucks did the domestic makes shine. The F series, Silverado and Dodge Ram pickup ranked 1-2-3, and Detroit entries grabbed four other spots in the top 10. Finishing fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th were the Ford Escape, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Caravan and GMC Sierra.
Closer and closer
GM was the leading seller of cars and light trucks in the United Sates in the first quarter.
Big deal. You call that news?
As a matter of fact, I do, because GM had a lead of 50,031 over Toyota Motor Sales, which marched ahead of Ford Motor Co. to take second place. Last year, GM led Toyota by 228,629 at this point.
Still nine months to go, but its frightening. A foreign automaker as the nations best-seller would be the crowning indignity for a domestic industry that already is gasping for air.