2007: A Historic Year for U.S. Vehicle Sales

By Michelle Krebs January 4, 2008

The year 2007 was historic for motor vehicle sales in the U.S. on a number of fronts.

Overall, the U.S. auto industry, which reported December and full-year 2007 sales on Thursday, saw sales drop to their lowest level in a decade.

For the first time since 1931, Ford Motor Co. was not the No. 2 automaker in the U.S.; Toyota was, even though Toyota suffered sales declines in some months for the first time in years.

Depending on what you count in the numbers, Toyota Division could be considered the best-selling brand in the U.S. Chevrolet objects, claiming Toyota shouldn't add into its totals Scion-branded vehicles in order to steal Chevrolet’s long-held sales crown.

And in 2007, for the first time in history, domestic automaker’s share of their home market fell below 50% in July, though for the year, they stayed above the 50% mark. Consider it was only in the mid-1980s that they owned 75% of the U.S. market.

The Scorecard

Industry sales came in at 16.15 million light vehicles in 2007, down 2.5 percent from 16.56 million in 2006.

Market Share for Big Six -- 2006 vs. 2007

2006

2007

Manufacturer

Share

Manufacturer

Share

Chrysler Group

13.0%

Chrysler Group

12.9%

Ford

17.3%

Ford

15.5%

GM

24.7%

GM

23.8%

Honda

9.1%

Honda

9.6%

Nissan

6.2%

Nissan

6.6%

Toyota

15.4%

Toyota

16.3%

Source: Edmunds.com

GENERAL MOTORS

While Toyota edged out Ford in the U.S. for the No. 2 spot and Toyota could beat General Motors on a global level, GM retained its position as the highest-volume automaker in the U.S.

GM sold 3.87 million cars and trucks in 2007, outselling Toyota Motor Sales by 1,245,795 vehicles and Ford by 1,765,376 vehicles.

On a global basis, Toyota trailed GM in sales by about 10,000 units at the end of the third quarter in 2007, after leading by 39,000 units in the first half. The two companies will report global sales later this month.

The Good

In addition to outselling Toyota and Ford in its home market to retain its long-held title of best-selling auto company in the U.S., GM enjoyed some other good news in its 2007 sales report.

Both its GMC and Saturn divisions sold more vehicles in 2007 than they did in 2006.

GMC sales were up 5.1% for the year (8.9% for December) on the strength of the popular Acadia crossover and full-size Sierra pickup truck. The Acadia, introduced during 2007, already ranks No. 2 in GMC’s line in terms of sales, behind the Sierra. GMC sold 72,765 Acadia models in the year.

Saturn sales rose 6.1% for the year, despite a 12% decline in December. Though the Aura, which won the North American Car of the Year award in 2007, got off to a slow start, it closed the year selling nearly 60,000 units.  Sales of the Sky roadster, now the oldest model in Saturn’s completely new product portfolio, rose 30% in 2007.

Small cars generally were hot, and GM’s small cars did well. Chevrolet Aveo subcompact enjoyed a 15% sales increase in 2007; it was the largest percentage increase among all of Chevrolet cars. Chevy sold 105,175 units of the HHR for a 3.8% increase for the year and 73% rise in December. The Chevrolet Cobalt saw a 29.3% hike in December, though its sales were down 5.1% for the year. Still, Chevy sold more than 200,000 Cobalts and outsold rival Ford Focus by 27,407 units in 2007.

The Bad

Still, GM had challenges in 2007, with total sales down 6.3% for the year. And the automaker had a weak finish despite resurrecting its Red Tag sales event for December. Sales for the month were off 5.2% from the previous year.

And while GMC and Saturn had higher sales, every other GM division had lower sales for the year.

Buick continued to struggle. Buick sales were down 22.8% for the year and 9.9% for December. The Enclave, introduced in 2007 and setting a record for monthly sales in December, did well, selling 30,000 vehicles. Yet, every other vehicle in the Buick line saw a sales decline.

Cadillac sales were down 5.4% for the year and 5.6% for December. The CTS, introduced only in the fall, is selling strong. Its sales were up 4% for the year and 40.5% in December.

Hummer sales were down 21.7% for the year; 23% in December.

Pontiac sales were off 12.7% for the year; 7.8% for December.

Saab sales were down 10% for the year; 22.3% for December.

And with Toyota breathing down its neck, Chevrolet had a sales drop of 6.2% for the year and 4.5% for December. Bad news for Chevy is the fact that full-size Silverado pickup sales are off 2.8% for the year, but that was still less than the 13.2% decline for the rival Ford F-Series.

On a quirky note, the vehicle with the largest year-over-year increase was the Chevrolet Uplander minivan, largely because it is sold to fleets. GM is discontinuing its minivans.

FORD

Ford struggled throughout 2007, suffering double-digit sales decreases in most months, in part but not entirely, due to an intentional reduction of daily rental sales and elimination of models, notably the old Taurus.

Ford’s sales fell down 12% in 2007. Ford said more than two-thirds of its sales decline reflected discontinued models. Ford’s December sales totaled 212,094, down 9%.

The Good

Lincoln has been Ford’s major source of good news throughout 2007. For the year, the luxury division finished 9.1% ahead of 2006, though sales were down 21.4% in December. The MKX crossover/SUV was the best-selling Lincoln in 2007. The MKZ sedan, with its boost in power, was up 3.8% in sales for the year.

Land Rover also has been a bright spot for Ford, with sales up 3.7% for the year but down 18.7% in December.

Volvo finally had an up month with December sales climbing 9.6%, thanks to the new XC70 and S80 as well as incremental sales from the new C30.

Sales of small SUVs have been up all year. The Escape, Ford’s best-selling SUV for 2007, had sales 5.2% higher than 2006; Mercury Mariner sales rose 2.7%.

The Ford Edge crossover/SUV outsold the Escape and Explorer in December.

Also good news for Ford is that its new cars are selling well. The Focus, redesigned for the 2008 model year, seems to be catching on, with sales up 3.5% in December from a year ago. The Focus ranks as Ford’s best-selling car for 2007. Ford Fusion sales were up 4.9% for the year and 7% in December. Mercury Milan sales rose 3.9% for the year and 2.1% in December.

The Bad

The worst news, of course, making headlines across the globe is the fact that Ford is no longer the No. 2 automaker in the U.S., but No. 3 behind Toyota. It likely will not regain its long-held No. 2 spot in the foreseeable future, especially since it is selling its Jaguar and Land Rover divisions in early 2008.

Ford didn’t finish the year on a high note: sales for the year were off 11.9% for 2007 and 9.2% in December.

Ford Division sales were down 13.6% for the year; 9.0% for December. Ford’s best-selling vehicle, the aging F-150, suffered a sales slide of 13.2% for the year and 22% for December. The redesigned 2009 F-150 will be introduced next week at the Detroit auto show. Sales of the Explorer, once the king of SUVs, plummeted 23.1% in 2007 to a mere 137,817 units, almost 28,000 less than the Escape.

Mercury sales were off 6.9% for the year; 8.5% for the month.

Jaguar sales slumped 24.2% for the year, selling a scant 15,683 cars for all of 2007. Sales were off another 2% in December.

Take Ford Division out of the Ford Motor Co. portfolio and all of Ford’s other brands – Mercury, Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo – combined sold a mere 471,355 vehicles in the year.

CHRYSLER

The year 2007 will be known as a historic one for Chrysler. It was put on the auction block in February and in August, became the first automaker to be purchased by a private equity firm, namely Cerberus Capital Management.

Chrysler sales for the year dipped 3% to 2,076,650 vehicles. December sales were up 1% from the year before.

The Good

The good news for Chrysler was that it bucked the trend in December, reporting higher sales, albeit only 1% higher. Still, GM, Ford, Toyota and Nissan showed declines in December, with Honda flat. Further, its 3% sales drop for 2007 was the smallest decline of the Big Three domestic makers.

Chrysler held on as the No. 4 automaker in the U.S., now behind Ford. Honda is nipping at its heels, behind by 525,108 vehicles.

The Jeep brand saw a sales hike of 3% in 2007, led by robust sales of the Wrangler – up 49% for 2007 – and helped by incremental sales from the Patriot.

The Bad

The high-volume Dodge brand contributed to much of Chrysler’s sales decline in 2007. Dodge was off 2% for the year with the largest decreases coming from the Durango SUV – down 36% -- and Caravan minivan, off 17%. Sales of the aging Dodge Ram were off 2% for the year and for December.

But the Chrysler brand played its part as well. Chrysler brand sales were down 10% for the year and 13% in December. The biggest declines came from its best-selling models, the Town & Country minivan, which was redesigned for the 2008 model year, and the once head-turning 300 sedan, which is long in the tooth. Conversely, the new Sebring finished well, up 34% for the year.

TOYOTA

What was bad news for Ford was good news for Toyota: capturing the No. 2 automaker in the U.S.

The Good

There was other good news for Toyota in 2007.

Sales for Toyota Motor Sales in total were up 2.7%, bucking the industry trend. Sales for the Toyota division rose 2.9%; Lexus sales were 1.8% higher than the year earlier.

The big news for Toyota throughout 2007 was the Prius hybrid, celebrating its 10th anniversary. Thanks to higher gasoline prices, Prius sales soared 68.9% in 2007 – 53% in December alone. Toyota sold 181,221 Prius models in 2007.

To put Prius’ success in perspective, the hybrid outsold several full-line brands. It outsold every Ford vehicle except for the F-Series pickup truck. In December alone, it outsold Jaguar sales for the year. It now is Toyota’s fourth best-seller behind the Camry, Corolla and Tundra, respectively.

While it got off to a bumpy start, the new Tundra pickup truck, introduced in February, had a sales increase of 57.4% for the year and 54.1% in December. In fact, were it not for the Tundra, Toyota and Lexus light truck sales would have had a very poor showing in 2007, showing a decline rather than the increase they enjoyed.

Camry, the No. 1 selling car for 2007, closed the year with sales 5.2% higher than the year earlier. Toyota sold 448,445 Camry models (including Camry Solara).

On the Lexus side, the LS had the largest percentage increase in year-over-year sales comparisons for all of Toyota at 79.6%. Lexus sold 35,226 LS models in 2007.

The Bad

Not all the news was rosy for Toyota, which saw sales declines in some months for the first time in few years.

Every Toyota and Lexus SUV and minivan showed a decrease in sales in 2007 except for the compact RAV4, which had a 13.2% increase in sales.

Despite the surge in compact car sales, the Corolla showed a 4.4% decline in 2007 and a 2.7% drop in December. Conversely, the subcompact Yaris finished 20.2% higher in 2007.

In contrast and in keeping with the trend of small cars doing better than large, sales of the Toyota Avalon dropped 18.2% for the year and 28.4% in December.

The good news for recent years – Scion – turned a tad sour in 2007. Every Scion model – the xA, xB and tC – showed double-digit decreases in 2007.

HONDA

Bucking the industry downturn, American Honda had a banner year in 2007, its 11th consecutive year of record sales and 14th year of year-over-year sales increases.

The Good

In total, American Honda reported a 2.5% sales increase in 2007, on the back of the Honda Division, which had a 4.5% sales increase in 2007. Honda Division carried the disappointing Acura division, which had 10.8% lower sales.

For perspective, Honda Division is within about a half-million units from matching Ford division. The Honda-Ford gap is narrowing quickly. Ford outsold Honda by nearly a million units (923,728) in 2006; the gap in 2007 was sliced nearly in half with Ford outselling Honda by 549,702 vehicles.)

And, as has been historically true, Honda Division’s strength comes from the Accord, which was redesigned for the 2008 model year and came in No. 2 in car sales. The Accord finished 2007 at a record 395,636 sales, short by 77,472 units of rival Toyota Camry (including Solara).

The Honda Fit, buoyed by high gas prices and consumer preference for small, fuel-efficient cars, delivered the highest percentage sales increase for Honda at 101.4% in 2007 – and up 129% in December alone.

For the same reasons, the Honda CR-V, now the No. 1 selling SUV, finished the year strong with sales up in 28.5% for the year. It outsold rival Toyota RAV4, which had a good year, by 46,408 units, and outsold its sibling, the Honda Pilot, by more than 100,000 units.

The only bright spot on the Acura side of the business was the RDX crossover. It had the highest percentage increase for Acura with sales up 154% for the year, although that is compared with a 2006 in which it was only on the market for five months.

The Bad

In a word: Acura.

While total Acura division sales were off 10.8% for 2007, Acura car sales plummeted 29.1%. Honda promises the first signs of a rebirth and reinvention of the Acura division, the oldest luxury marque to be established by a Japanese automaker, will be unveiled in 2008.

Core vehicles carried the day for both Honda and Acura with the Accord, Fit, Civic and CR-V recording higher sales for Honda in 2007 and the MDX and RDX posting increases for Acura. All other vehicles in the Honda and Acura lines suffered declines.

And the Honda Ridgeline – it’s officially no longer a player in the segment. It finished 2007 selling a scant 42,795 vehicles.

NISSAN

The Good

Nissan North America closed 2007 with sales 4.5% ahead of 2006. It enjoyed the highest percentage increase of the Big 6 players in the U.S. market.

Nissan North America narrowed the gap with American Honda; the two are less than a half million units apart in sales.

Nissan Division is approaching the 1-million sales a year mark. Nissan Division closed 2007, selling 941,200 vehicles, up from 898,103 in 2006.

Nissan and Infiniti car sales jumped 14.5% for the year.

The Altima led the charge with sales up 22.1% for the year. For perspective on the importance of Altima – which could be viewed as good or bad news in terms of dependency on a single vehicle, Nissan sold more than twice as many vehicles as the entire Infiniti division sold total vehicles.

Versa also contributed to the effort. Its sales were up a whopping 259.2$ for the year and 49.8% for December.

The Bad

Though it had an up year overall, Nissan North America closed the year on a lower note, with December sales off 2.2%

Success for Nissan was not across the board. Only the Nissan Versa and Altima along with the Infiniti G sedan and QX56 SUV showed increases for the year.

In a situation similar to Toyota’s with the Yaris increasing and the Corolla decreasing, Nissan’s Versa success didn’t spill over to its other small car, the Sentra. Its sales were off 10% for the year.

Trucks were problematic for Nissan and Infiniti, which combined reported truck sales down 7.5%. The QX56 was the only vehicle in either the Nissan or Infiniti truck line to post a year-over-year gain. Nissan division trucks were off 7.8% despite the new Rogue crossover delivering 17,808 units of incremental sales. It was a particularly tough year for the Titan, due to the soft full-size pickup market and the intense competition created by the introduction of the Toyota Tundra. Titan sales dropped 9.2% in 2007.

The once-popular Nissan Maxima is no longer popular. Its sales were down 24.9% for 2007, totaling 52,574 units. Consider in 2002 Maxima sales stood at 98,502 units a year.

Analysis provided by Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com manager of pricing and market analysis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

LEAVE A COMMENT

Clark Matthews says: 6:06 AM, 01.05.08

I like your commentaries. You are careful to mention the good and bad points of each and every manufacturer. Too many automotive journalists are stuck in the form letter routine of "everything Toyota is good" / "everything Ford is bad". Keep up the interesting articles.

Michelle Krebs says: 12:40 PM, 01.05.08

Thanks for your comments. We work hard to be fair and balanced. Situations are never all good or all bad.

Antonio Lawson says: 9:23 AM, 01.06.08

I agree with Clark. This is how all auto journalists should report. We live in a world of perception, and the U.S. media is good to always mention the bad stuff about the domestics car companies. I am 35-years-old, and I appreciate the information.

ADD A COMMENT

No HTML or javascript allowed. URLs will not be hyperlinked.