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Detroit 3 dethroned

2010-01-06 12:57
Asian automakers dethroned Detroit as the biggest sellers in the United States in 2009 after General Motors and Chrysler succumbed to the economic crisis, industry data has shown.

Total industry sales fell 21.2% to 10.43 million vehicles in 2009, according to Autodata figures released Tuesday.

That is the lowest level since the 1983 recession and drastically below the 15 to 17 million vehicle range posted each of the previous 15 years.

GM and Chrysler saw their sales suffer more than most after seeking billions of dollars in government aid and restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

While Ford managed to both stay afloat and increase its piece of the shrunken market, the Detroit Three's overall share fell to 44.2% of their home market from 47.5% in 2008.

Asian brands captured a 47.4% share in 2009, up from 44.6% in 2008, Autodata said. It was the first time they gained a bigger piece than GM, Chrysler and Ford combined, which held a 60% share as recently as 2004 and a 70% share a decade ago.

European automakers saw their piece of the pie rise to 8.4% from 7.8% in 2008.

Ford gains

"It was a challenging and very volatile year," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for US marketing sales and service.

"We had to deal with a near-depression economy, there were bankruptcies, bailouts, discontinued brands, distressed pricing, a government stimulus program... that resulted in huge shifts in demand from one month to the next."

Ford managed to increase its share to 15.5% in 2009 from 14.4% a year earlier - the first time the second-largest US automaker posted a full-year share gain since 1995.

Ford capped the year with a 33% gain in December sales, even as the year's total fell 15.4 percent to 1.7 million vehicles.

"For 2010, I'm leaving my seatbelt on, because I think that volatility is still an element of the new norm," Czubay said in a conference call discussing Ford's December sales results.

Ford said it expects global vehicle sales to resume growth this year. Other major automakers also predicted smoother roads ahead as total December sales rose 15.1% from a year earlier.

Gradual recovery from rollercoaster

"Emerging from the rollercoaster of 2009, the industry has gained positive momentum for a gradual recovery," said Don Esmond, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, USA.

Toyota - which managed to hold onto the number two spot in US sales - posted a 32-percent sales gain in December. It also managed to increase its share of the US market by 0.3 points to 17%, although sales ended the year down 20.2% at 1.78 million vehicles.

"Despite a tough market, TMS performed solidly, reaching its goal to grow market share," Esmond said.

GM, Chrysler share down

General Motors posted a six% drop in December US sales and saw its share shrink to 19.8% in 2009 from 22.2% in 2008 as annual sales fell 30% to 2.93 million vehicles.

"We're looking forward to 2010 as a year when the economy continues a modest recovery, industry sales begin to improve and our outstanding new products build additional sales momentum," said Susan Docherty, GM vice president of US sales.

Chrysler also expressed optimism even after its share fell to 8.9% in 2009 from 11% in 2008 and its ranking slid to 5th place as annual sales dropped 36% to 1.45 million

"As we kick off the new year, Chrysler Group continues to build momentum with some of the best products in the marketplace, and we are enthusiastic about the new products coming this year," Chrysler's top sales executive Fred Diaz said in a statement.

Korean automakers were among the big winners of 2009, with Kia and Hyundai the only brands besides Japan's Subaru to post both market share and net sales gains.

Hyundai's share rose to 4.2% from 3.0 in 2008 as sales grew 8.3% to 435,064 while Kia's share rose 0.8 points to 2.9% as its sales grew 9.8% to 300 063 vehicles.

Honda managed to beat Chrysler to 4th place as its share rose 0.2 points to 11% even as 2009 sales fell 19.5% to 1.15 million vehicles.

Nissan managed to increase its share by 0.2 points to 7.4% in 2009, while sales fell 19.15% to 770 103 vehicles.

Sapa - AFP

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