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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 04-14-2008, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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SALES TALES: What they're buying and what they're not

From Automotive News:

JOHN K. TEAHEN JR.

SALES TALES: What they're buying and what they're not
John K. Teahen Jr.
Automotive News
April 14, 2008 - 12:01 am ET


With gasoline heading for $4 a gallon and the U.S. economy slipping deeper into the doldrums, it's time to look at what new-vehicle customers are and are not buying.

In the first quarter of 2008, there were 3,578,680 sales of new cars and light trucks, down 8.0 percent or 310,885 units from the year-ago quarter.
Let's do the easy part first. Consumers are not buying trucks. Pickup sales dipped 15.0 percent in the first quarter, and SUV sales plunged 24.5 percent. Four of the five SUV segments were in free fall, with losses of more than 23 percent.

But sales in the premium-large group were off just 10.1 percent. People who can afford those big boats are not much concerned with the price of gasoline. Premium-large SUVs include the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Hummer, Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz G and GL and Volks-wagen Touareg.

Strangely, sales of some high-priced SUVs rose in the quarter. Deliveries of the Lexus LX more than doubled. Porsche Cayenne sales rose 11.0 percent. The Infiniti QX56 was up 10.6 percent. And the Toyota Land Cruiser, which has barely changed since it arrived in this country 50 years ago, spurted up 78.4 percent.

Twelve minivans are on the market, and buyers are saying "no, thank you" to eight of them. The four other nameplates account for nearly 80 percent of sales: the Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Overall minivan sales fell 20 percent for the quarter.

Better, but not good
Here are some glad tidings: Sales of crossovers those station wagons that are classified as trucks rose 6.1 percent for the quarter.

But there's bad news in the crossover world, too. There are 44 crossovers on the market, which would seem to be about enough. My advice to would-be entrants: Unless your product is outstanding, forget it.

So much for the sad story of the truck market. Let's look at cars, where the clouds are almost as thick.

U.S. buyers are supposed to be screaming for small cars. Maybe so, but people aren't necessarily buying them except for the smallest and cheapest.

The five nameplates in Automotive News' budget class posted a rousing 33.6 percent sales advance in the first quarter. They are the Chevrolet Aveo, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris and brand-new Smart for Two.
The rest of the small-car segment barely held its own, with a quarterly dip of 2.3 percent. The segment has 17 entrants, including the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Fit, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla/Matrix.

Upscale bad, sporty worse
Midrange cars total 43 nameplates, led by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the top-selling cars in the United States. But sales of the middies were down 2.5 percent in the first quarter.

It gets worse. The upscale segment near-luxury, luxury and superluxury cars took a 7.1 percent sales bath in the first quarter. The segment has 36 nameplates, from the Acura TL and Audi A4 to Rolls-Royce and Maybach.

Sales of almost three-fourths of those nameplates were down.
Americans also turned away from sporty cars in the first quarter. Of the 33 models listed on the Automotive News sales chart, 26 suffered sales declines. On the upside: the Audi TT, Mini Cooper and Dodge Viper.
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