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December light vehicle sales

by Bill Cawthon on

Ford reported sales were up 33% in December giving the blue oval its best sales month since May 2008. The F-Series pickup celebrated its 33rd year as the nation’s best-selling pickup and its 28th year as America’s best-selling light vehicle. For the year, Ford sales were down 15.4 percent. The Fusion enjoyed its first year as the best-selling American-badged car.

GM sales were down 6.1% though sales of the General’s new “core” brands (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC) were up 2.2 percent. GM ended the year with a 30.1% deficit compared to 2008 but still ranked No. 1 in the U.S. market.

Toyota sales jumped 32.2% last month. The Sienna minivan finished fourth, 494 units behind the Town & Country for the year. Toyota missed its 2008 mark by 20.2 percent but that was still good enough for second place behind GM. The Camry racked up another year as the best-selling car in the land and Lexus added another year to its streak as the top-selling premium brand.

Honda sales rose 24.5% in December as the Odyssey took the minivan crown for the second year in a row, beating the Caravan by 9,467 units. Honda finished the year in the red by 19.5 percent.

Nissan sales were up by 18.2% but that wasn’t enough to knock Chrysler out of fifth place. Chrysler beat sixth-place Nissan by a comfortable margin. Nissan 2009 sales were 19.1% below its 2008 sales.

Subaru set a new annual sales record, coming in 33.5% ahead for the month and 15.4% ahead for the year.

Mazda sales were up 16.% last month but came up 21.3% shy of its 2008 totals.

Mitsubishi missed its December mark by 4.7% and ended the year 44.5% behind 2008.

Suzuki posted the worst numbers of any mainstream automaker with a 48.4% slide in December and a 54.5% crash for the year.

Hyundai sales leaped nearly 41% in December leaving the top Korean automaker up 8.3% for the year. Kia sales results were even better, coming in 43.7% ahead of last December and 9.8% ahead of 2008.

Mercedes-Benz beat its December 2008 numbers by 8.2% and locked up third place in the upscale segment. Mercedes sales were down 15.3% for the year. The E-Class was the real star with December sales up 57 percent and 2009 sales up 11.7 percent. Smart car sales took another dive. Sales of the Micro-car was down 63.1% in December and 40.7% for the year.

Volkswagen sales improved by almost 16% in December. Even though VW was 4.3% short of matching its 2008 sales, it did become the top European brand again. VW’s upscale Audi brand enjoyed a 17.1% boost in December and completed 2009 with a 5.7% shortfall, one of the smallest deficits of any premium marque.

Porsche sales were down 1.6% in December and 24.4% for the year.

BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover have yet to report. This story will be updated when those numbers are received.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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