Meridian Star

Features

January 5, 2010

(1:54 p.m.) Auto Sales

DEE-ANN DURBIN,AP Auto Writers

TOM KRISHER,AP Auto Writers

DETROIT (AP) — Big automakers are glad to see the end of 2009, the worst year for U.S. sales in nearly 30 years.

Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co. Nissan Motor Co., and Toyota Motor Corp. saw sharp declines for the year, but all said they had momentum to start 2010.

For most, 2009 was a rough year as credit froze, the economy and consumer confidence faltered and unemployment rose. U.S. sales for the full-year are expected to be their worst in nearly 30 years.

Sales of smaller, cheaper vehicles, however, helped drive gains for some manufacturers. Hyundai continued its surge with an 8-percent yearly gain, while its low-cost Kia brand reported 2009 sales gains of nearly 10 percent and a 44-percent gain in December.

Japanese automaker Subaru, which reported a 15 percent sales gain for the year, called 2009 an unqualified success.

General Motors and Chrysler took the biggest hits after both went through bankruptcy court and stayed alive with government aid.

For the year, GM sales were off 33 percent from 2008, while December sales fell 9 percent.

Chrysler sold only 931,000 vehicles for the year, its worst performance since 1962. The Auburn Hills, Michigan, automaker saw sales drop 36 percent for the year but down only 4 percent in December, far better than the double-digit drops the company reported earlier in the year.

Honda's sales were off 22 percent for the year but up 20 percent for December, while Nissan was up 18 percent for the month but down 19 percent for the year. Toyota sales were up a whopping 32 percent in December but down just over 20 percent for the year.

At Chrysler, December sales rose 36 percent over November, showing signs of some progress at showrooms but also helped by less-profitable sales to fleets such a rental companies and municipalities.

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