Automotive market in the United States
The automotive market in the United States has been the second-largest in the world (after that of China) since 2010, having been the world's largest for over a century.1
With the high fuel prices and the world petroleum crisis, the United States has seen its automotive market become more like the European market with fewer large vehicles on the road and more small cars.2
Following this trend, General Motors Corporation announced on 2008-06-03 its plans to cease production at four GM truck assembly plants in North America while adding additional shifts at two assembly plants for cars. According to GM, U.S. consumer preferences are shifting permanently away from trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in favor of smaller cars and crossover vehicles. As a result, GM saw significant increases in the retail sales of its Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Aveo, and Pontiac Vibe in 2008 May, while its May sales of trucks to its dealerships are down by 36.7% from last year. Regarding cars and crossovers, higher gasoline prices are changing consumer behavior, and rapidly, significantly affecting the U.S. auto industry sales mix. GM thinks this is not a spike or temporary shift, but is largely permanent. GM is also "undertaking a strategic review" of the Hummer brand and could either revamp the product line or sell the brand. General Motors have cancelled a $2 billion investment program to update their range of full-size SUVs.3
Of course, GM's sales trends are not unique to the company; all the large automakers are seeing similar trends. For instance, the biggest loser on the American Customer Satisfaction Index list is the struggling Ford's Lincoln-Mercury brand, with a 3.5% drop to 83 from 86 in 2007. Ford Motor Company, in general, saw a 20% increase in retail sales of its cars in 2008 May (compared to last year) and a 4% increase in car sales to its dealerships. Meanwhile, its SUV sales to dealerships were down 44% and its truck and van sales to dealerships were down 29% (note that both Ford and GM did not release retail sales information on their trucks and SUVs). Ford is top-heavy, with several big, gas-guzzling models that have put a damper on owner satisfaction. Ford announced in late 2008 July that it will bring its more fuel-efficient European models to the U.S., but the cars may not arrive in time to stem the company's slide in customer satisfaction.4
Chrysler is facing continuous pressure from its rapidly decline sales of trucks, pick ups and minivans as consumers tend to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles given the soaring oil prices.5 Chrysler Chief Executive Bob Nardelli said the government loans would help speed the electric technology to market. But if they aren't approved, Chrysler will have to spend limited resources on developing new technology and would have to make cuts elsewhere, possibly in employment and development of conventional products. "Unfortunately we have had to furlough many families as a result of the economy turmoil and certainly the downward spiraling in the industry," he said. "I'd like to make sure that we don't have to go further to be able to support advanced technology work." 6
Toyota Motor also saw big sales gains for its Yaris, Corolla, and Scion xB, although Toyota's car sales overall were down by 21.3% in May, compared to last year. Toyota's light truck sales are down by 15.9%, while Toyota's Lexus division suffered sales drops nearly across the board. "We are looking at the current shift towards fuel-efficient cars (in the United States) as a structural change in demand," Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told a news conference. "We intend to respond quickly and flexibly to this environment" . As part of those efforts, Toyota said it would move forward the launch of a "plug-in" version of its Prius.7
Likewise, American Honda Motor Company experienced a 30.7% increase in car sales in May, compared to last year, while truck sales were down 11.4% and sales in its Acura division were down by 9.9%.
Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A. gained a 10.4% increase in sales vs. previous year, it has 8.8% share on the total American market. Nissan is known for making dynamic and techy models from everyday cars to sportscars which are popular on the market.
With gasoline at record prices, demand for some gas-electric hybrid vehicles is booming.
The average Toyota Prius is getting sold just 13 days after hitting the showroom floor, according to Power Information Network data sampled from dealerships. A year ago, it took 24 days to sell a Prius. Prius sales dropped 38% in May compared to a year ago, but that was because Toyota dealers were running out of cars to sell. Dealers had just 3,832 unsold at the end of a month during which they sold more than 15,000 cars. (Those same Toyota dealers had more than 19,000 Sequoia sport utility vehicles gathering dust at the end of May, according to Autodata Corp., after selling just 3,575 of the US-made vehicles.) 8
Car makers compete to demonstrate their pro-hybrid bona fides. The stampede toward hybrid technology reflects the much broader rush toward smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that has roiled the auto market as gasoline prices started in 2008 topping $4 a gallon.8
- American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)
- Automotive industry
- Corporate Average Fuel Economy
- Top 20 motor vehicle producing companies in 2009
- "China Ends U.S.’s Reign as Largest Auto Market". Bloomberg. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- Article Detaildead link
- "GM Cancels All Future Full-Size SUVs". Worldcarfans. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- "Car Brands Americans Love". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-25.dead link
- "Can Chrysler Woo Fiat?". Forbes.com. 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2009-07-25.dead link
- "Chrysler "Jolts" PHEV Race; PHEV Ads; V2Green Acquired". Calcars.org. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- "Toyota Advances PHEVs to Fleets to 2009; Ford Stays on Sidelines". Calcars.org. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2009-07-25.
- Still-Waiting-for-Hybrids-to-Be-the-Smartest-Buy: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance
- "Small cars sell, but GM, Ford suffer as gas prices rise". USA Today. 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Planet Ark : US Auto Trends Cloud Fuel Efficiency Rules
- Kay. Jane Holtz, Asphalt nation : how the automobile took over America, and how we can take it back, New York : Crown Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0-517-58702-5
- How light will cars be in the future? at HowStuffWorks
- GM Shifts Away from Trucks and SUVs, Toward Cars and Crossovers.
- Toyota Struggles to Meet Hybrid, Small Car Demand
- Small and hybrird cars sell, but GM, Ford suffer as gas prices rise: the Toyota Prius saw sales climb 66.6%.
- Car Brands Americans Love
- Touring the floor, European push for smaller, cheaper cars apparent