Chrysler took the biggest hit in December. Sales fell 53% from year-ago levels . . . GM (GM, Fortune 500) reported a 31% sales plunge. That allowed it to post a modest gain in market share . . . No. 2 Toyota Motor (TM) reported a 37% decline, Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) posted a 32% drop in sales, Honda Motor (HMC) a 35% fall and Nissan (NSANY) a 31% slide. . .
Some dealers reported that 40% of their sales for the month came in the last few days. . . .
For the year, GM's sales fell 23%. Sales of its car models performed somewhat better, slipping only 16% on strong sales of its Malibu sedan. But sales of its light trucks, such as SUVs and pickups that are the mainstay of its product lineup, tumbled 27% for the year.
Sales at Ford (F, Fortune 500) fell 21% in 2008. Sales of cars at Ford, Lincoln and Mercury tumbled 11% while SUV sales plunged 42% and sales of trucks and vans slid 25%.
Chrysler ended the year with sales down 30% from a year earlier. Sales of virtually every model it offered were lower than a year ago.
Toyota's full-year U.S. sales fell 15%, the second straight year that the Japanese automaker's sales declined in what is now its largest market. Sales of Toyota's car models fell 10% for the year, while its light truck models tumbled 22%. . . .
[I]ndustrywide sales of pickups and SUVs. . . were down 40% from year-ago levels in December and were off 30% for the year.
Hyundai also had a bad December, down 48.3%, but was down only 14.0% for the year as a whole.
For the industry as a whole "Total 2008 [U.S.] sales fell nearly 3 million, to 13.2 million — the biggest year-to-year drop since 1973 to 1974." (More complete data here.)
Chrysler also has a 115 day inventory backlog. "Total sales were significantly affected by the industry's largest reductions in fleet sales, 63 percent for December and 31 percent for the year." Its total car sales for the year of 406,000 were down 29% from last year, and its light truck sales for the year of 1,047,000 were down 31%.
Chrysler is now the fourth largest automobile company by U.S. sales, after GM, Toyota and Ford (in that order), and edged out Honda for fourth place by only about 25,000 cars, compared to a margin of 525,000 cars in 2007. If 2009, looks anything like 2008, Chrysler with be number five in U.S. sales in 2009 (unless it falls below Nissan as well), if can it manage to stay in business at all.
Despite a bailout from the federal government for now, for Chrysler and GM, and as a bank for GMAC, the future does not look bright for these companies.
Chrysler was already the little guy of the Big Three, and that has simply gotten worse as it has seen its U.S. sales fall more than any other major automobile company in the United States in 2008, and by far the worst sales slump for December.
GM began to talk concretely about its plan to survive in order to get a federal bailout loan.
GM needs financial concessions to implement a restructuring plan unveiled last month that includes eliminating up to 31,000 jobs, shutting nine plants and renegotiating its 2007 labor contract with the UAW. GM also wants to close 1,750 dealerships, possibly eliminate Saturn and convince banks and bondholders to swap some of the company's debt for equity. . . .
GM received a $4 billion loan from the government on Jan. 31. GM is scheduled to get another $5.4 billion on Jan. 16 and $4 billion more Feb. 17, if Congress opens the second half of the $700 billion Wall Street rescue package. . . .
The loans to GM come after the Detroit automaker has lost almost $73 billion since 2004. . . .GM's eight brands each posted sales declines in excess of 20 percent last year.
The Saab and Hummer brands are also on the block to be sold, and Pontiac may be shrunk. There are currently 6,400 GM brand dealers.
For the UAW, concessions on top of those made in 2007 seem almost certain:
In the 2007 labor pact, the UAW agreed to slash starting wages and benefits for newly hired autoworkers at Detroit's Big Three to as low as $14 an hour. Those cuts don't affect current workers, whose hourly pay and compensation totals about $55 an hour.
The figure surpasses $70 an hour when the costs of health care for retired workers and other retirement benefits are included.
The hourly pay and compensation at U.S. plants operated by foreign automakers is about $45 an hour, labor analysts say.
The UAW has said it will suspend its controversial jobs bank program, delay payments to the union-run trust fund for retiree health care and modify the national labor agreements to allow for more potential wage and benefits cuts.
Leaders also have told local plant officials the union wants an ownership stake in GM and a seat on the automaker's board in exchange for further concessions.
European car sales aren't rosy either. Car sales were down in Europe industrywide by 26% in November, and are expected to decline significantly in 2009. Italy's Fiat and GM Europe's troubled Germany-based Opel subsidiary, are on bankruptcy death watches.
Some of this is simply the law of economic gravity swooping in. Americans were buying too many pickups and SUVs relative to cars. Housing prices were too high in many markets. Americans were getting too much credit for consumer purchases too easily. But, we've experienced the exact opposite of a soft landing from those excesses.