LOS ANGELES -- Auto sales in California continue to plunge faster than the national average.
Sales fell 25 percent for the third quarter, according to the California New Car Dealers Association, compared with a 10 percent decline nationwide.
Sales in the state plummeted 35 percent to 775,075 units in the first nine months, compared with a 27 percent drop for the country.
"I don't know if we'll break a million this year, the first time we haven't done that since 1975," says Peter Welch, president of the association.
Tight credit, high unemployment and a huge number of home foreclosures have hit California hard. The association reported last year that nearly 40 percent of Californians used home-equity loans to buy their vehicles during the boom days of the state's real estate market.
Hyundai, Kia and Subaru are bucking the downward sales trend.
"Everybody's buying down," Welch says. "That's why Hyundai and Kia are doing spectacularly."
Every brand suffered double-digit decreases in the state for the first nine months except Kia, Hyundai and Subaru. Kia rose to the No. 12 spot with a sales increase of 13 percent to 19,608 units. Kia stood at No. 16 at the end of September 2008 but moved past Chrysler, GMC, Jeep and Mazda this year.
Ken Phillips, a Kia dealer in Carson, Calif., says new products such as the Soul and Forte have bolstered the brand in California.
"A lot of people are starting to look at the best deal, not just the name of the car," he says.
Hyundai's sales in California fell 6 percent to 25,736 units though September. Together, the two Korean brands picked up 2.2 points of market share through nine months, compared with a 2-point gain for the Europeans, a 3.9-point loss for the Detroit 3 and a 0.4-point loss for the Japanese brands.
Toyota/Scion was No. 1 with sales of 159,658 and market share of 20.6 percent. But that was a 39 percent drop in unit volume and a 1.5-point share loss -- the largest share drop among the five top-selling brands.