SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 23, June 11, 2009

Vehicle Sales Surprises—How the Landscape is Changing

  Best & Worst Vehicle Sales April/May 2009
 While not equal to last year's volume, the market has shifted from negative to positive.
 Vehicle Sales: Change of Market Share
 The after-effects of the unrelenting news stories of bankruptcies and uncertainty appear to be having an effect on market share.

May sales figures for light-duty vehicles have been announced and illustrate the effects of manufacturer bankruptcies and possibly a long term adjustment in brand market share.

J.D. Power and Associates have compiled the latest figures and report both month-over-month and year-over-year statistics. Not surprisingly, May 2009 fared far worse than the same period last year. This troubling drop was universal among all brands except Lincoln, the sole manufacturer that grew.

At 2.4% positive growth, Ford’s luxury brand defied the common belief that necessity spending is the only survivor in economic troughs. Most of the other brands performed poorly, with Saab, Scion and Mitsubishi among the hardest hit.

But is it all bad news? Absolutely not. Being that the recession has been alive for months, the economic perspective has been repositioned. We are now looking forward and, in many cases, up. The month-over-month comparisons appear much more benevolent.

May was a much more productive month than April with aggregate volume increasing by 12.8%. Nissan (44%), Lincoln (43%), Mercury (33%), Infiniti (32%) and MINI (26%) lead the charts with outstanding growth.

The chart at top right shows the best and worst performing brands on a monthly and yearly comparison. Yellow corresponds to the top five, while gray represents the bottom five. All other data was retained within the chart, but many of the other manufacturers were not included as they fell into the middle of the rankings and were less volatile.

In terms of manufacturers to watch, collecting market share could help illustrate which brands are creating or losing market presence. The companies engaged in bankruptcy filings are feeling the short-term effects. Chrysler and General Motors have struggled for the first half of 2009, with their brands losing out to other competitors. Chrysler filed earlier and has suffered the worst.

On the other end of the spectrum, Hyundai and Kia have been able to capture some of these slices of the pie by offering affordable vehicles, new market entrants and aggressively marketed incentive plans.

Subaru and Volkswagen, on the other hand, have been able to cater to their enthusiast bases to move up the ladder with exciting cars and new technology. The key ingredient between all four of these brands is their relatively low starting price for vehicles, not necessarily within each segment but relative to the entire market. —SEMA Research & Information Center

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