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Sales of Full-Size SUVs Crater in September

Sep Full-Size Sales. Click to enlarge.

Combined sales of full-size SUVs dropped 43.5% in September from the year before. GM and Ford, the most dependent on SUV sales, were the hardest hit, with drops of 42.5% and 54.5% respectively.

The automakers had been spinning the data for several days prior to the actual release yesterday, noting that the heavy discounting of the past few months would have created an “undertow.”

However, the heavy declines in the segment hit Toyota—a company that hadn’t been offering the employee-discounts-for-everyone incentives—as well. Demand for its Sequoia dropped 46.8% and for the Land Cruiser 51.8%.

Even Nissan felt the bite. Sales of the Armada fell 20.8% and the Infiniti QX56 by a meagre 4.1%.

Only two models of full-size SUVs increased sales last month: the Hummer H1, and the Ford Excursion, which went out of production at the end of the month.

Sales of Full-Size SUVs, Sep 04 vs. Sep 05
CompanyModelSep 04 Sep 05 Change % Change
GMBuick Rainier3,338 1,683 -1,655 -49.6%
Cadillac Escalade5,4243,864 -1,560 -28.8%
Cadillac SRX2,4391,624 -815 -33.4%
Chevy Suburban 12,987 5,640 -7,347 -56.6%
Chevy Avalanche 8,147 4,131 -4,016 -49.3%
Chevy Trailblazer 28,175 21,412 -6,763 -24.0%
Chevy Tahoe 20,905 9,151 -11,754 -56.2%
GMC Yukon 16,848 11,027 -5,821 -34.6%
GMC Envoy 14,792 6,157 -8,635 -58.4%
HUMMER H1 24 28 +4 +16.7%
HUMMER H2 2,524 1,724 -800 -31.7%
Ford Ford Expedition 15,003 5,906 -9,097 -60.6%
Ford Excursion 1,498 1,740 +242 +16.7%
Ford Explorer 30,448 12,879 -17,569 -57.7%
Lincoln Navigator 3,514 1,559 -1,955 -55.6%
Lincoln Aviator 2,345 1,407 -938 -40.0%
Land Rover Range Rover 1,010 985 -25 -2.5%
Chrysler Dodge Durango 10,828 9,656 -1,172 -10.8%
Toyota Toyota Sequoia 4,388 2,334 -2,054 -46.8%
Toyota Land Cruiser 614 296 -318 -51.8%
Lexus LX470 768 764 -4 -0.5%
Nissan Nissan Armada 3,104 2,459 -645 -20.8%
Infiniti QX56 1,265 1,213 -52 -4.1%
Isuzu Ascender-7 753 449 -304 -40.4%

For the first 9 months of the year, sales of full-size SUVs are down 16.8% year-on-year.

9 mos full-size sales. Click to enlarge.

The decline in year-to-date in this segment affected all the automakers except one: Nissan. GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Isuzu all saw significant drops.

Overall, all auto and light truck sales were down 7.5% in September from the year before, although up 3.3% for the first nine months.

Even in the tougher overall market, however, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and most other smaller automakers posted total sales increases in September, compared to 2004. GM saw its total sales drop 24.1%, however, and Ford saw its fall 20.1%.

By contrast, Chrysler sales climbed 4.0%; Toyota’s 10.3%; Honda’s 11.7%; and Nissan’s 16.4%.



What's most aggravating about this situation is that virtually the exact same thing happened in the 70's. Though this time they had fair warning, the outcome is going to be the same: American automotive production will suffer a precipitous setback from which it will never fully recover.


GM will probably be the first to go under.  When it happens, pensions and retiree health care will be lost permanently.  The question:  will this make the UAW flexible enough to save the other two?

UAW demands and work rules have had a large part in keeping Detroit from being able to build a competitive economical car.  This has got to change.


I am so incredibly happy to read this.

Harvey D

It seems that the Big Three had it coming for producing (for too long) the millions huge 4 x 4 vehicles that the Oil Cos wanted them to produce. Being almost 10 years behind Toyota with the production of greener hybrids, it is not sure that they will catch-up before going under. The quick production of plug-in hybrids may be the only way out for them if they can find enough high performance Lithium batteries. Its not sure that they will, want or can to do it. So, the Big Three may most probably be Japanese with 5 to 7 years. This will not be so bad for the users because they make better cars.


Honestly, I think the Big 3 will be fine. It'd be "unamerican" to allow them to fail, and I think Congress will work out a number of ways to help the Big 3 out, including:
* some form of state/national health care benefits that will alleviate some burden.
* simply undoing some of the contractual obligations to labor, a la the recent airline bankruptcy proceedings.
* a huge purchasing contract for Fed, state, county, and city purchasing of USian vehicles.
* tax breaks designed to help the Big 3 without violating treaties (ex: the hybrid tax break that applies to the first 60k of each model each year. Prius will hit that by April; Ford won't hit it all year).

I'm not saying that it will fix itself. I am saying that Congress has too much to lose if the Big 3 go down. They'll work overtime to help.


I'm really surprised that so many americans making Toyota and other foreign automakers that strong. This is unpatriotic, hehehe. Even if Toyota/Lexus offers a 100 MPG vehicle, the majority of germans would still buy BMW, Mercedes, VW, Opel etc. just to safe the jobs.
But this is a big chance for GM and Ford (of course for sleeping german car manufacturers too) to rethink their strategy by forcing the development towards less oil consuming technologies or even full e-vehicles. The only piece missing for that is a useable energy storage system. However, we're heading the oil peak, it's time to move on. Now.

Joseph Willemssen

"I'm really surprised that so many americans making Toyota and other foreign automakers that strong. This is unpatriotic, hehehe. Even if Toyota/Lexus offers a 100 MPG vehicle, the majority of germans would still buy BMW, Mercedes, VW, Opel etc. just to safe the jobs."

German automakers accounted for 52.6% of new vehicle sales in Germany in 2004. By contrast, the Big 3 had 58.6% of the US market in 2004. Opel, btw, is a GM company and has been for about 80 years.

Also, there's this:
"German manufacturers shift production abroad
German carmakers will continue to shift their production abroad. This partly reflects the need to reduce payroll expenditure and compliance costs regarding environmental and other standards, but also the need to move closer to export markets—a factor that is particularly important for car production in China. The trend towards production of car parts in other countries will be even stronger, particularly in eastern Europe, although work councils in Germany have become more willing to accommodate management demands for cost cuts."


I know that Opel belongs to GM. Chrysler, btw, is actually a Daimler company.
If Toyota would have industrial facilities in Germany (like in the US) they might sell more cars in our country. Look at BMW for example, the X5 and Z4 are made in Spartanburg/SC, plus they doing some design and research in CA.

"German carmakers will continue to shift their production abroad"
Wrong, Porsche and BMW build just two brand new hightech major facilities in Leipzig/Germany.

"German automakers accounted for 52.6% of new vehicle sales in Germany in 2004."
I can neither confirm nor deny the data right now. Fact is, Toyota has just 4% of new vehicle sales in Germany (03/2004-03/2005).

Anyway, my actual intention was that ALL automakers should build "greener" cars, not only Toyota. Sorry, if I hurt somebodys sense of honour by mentioning it would be unpatriotic to buy foreign cars.

Harvey D

We switched to Toyotas some 15 years ago and we are still very North American. My wife last large rusting Ford product and my last large 400 Chrysler rusting monster did it. We don't feel unpatriotic at all but have the good feeling of using at least 50% less gas and producing at least 50% less pollution. Secondly, our Toyotas dont rust as fast and last twice as long and 50%+ less materials in the junk ward. Really, when we see a small lady using a 2 1/2 Ton 4x4 gas guzzler to carry 50 lbs of groceries, we dont think that she is patriotic even if the monster is built in North America but she is a grand polluter. Sorry, we will not go back to NA vehicles and we are not the only one. The percentage of Big Three vehicles on the roads has gone down significantly in the last 25 years and it seems that the trend will accellerate unless they start building better, lighter, greener and more efficient vehicles. Let's hope that common sense and the will to survive will be as strong as patriotism.

John W.

AMEN! Harvey I couldn't agree with you more or state it better! (Even though I'm Canadian I still agree!) :) (There are lots of plants both domestic and foreign in Canada too).

Besides, you got to admit, it's just plain fun to have a super efficient vehicle. We are a family of 5 and have a 98 Honda Odyssey with only a 2.3 liter engine, but the van only weighs 4000 pounds full of fluid (2000 lbs lighter than other minivans out today) and makes 150 horse stock so it still goes real good for us. Our little four cylinder van has 250 000 kms (150 000 miles?) on it and still runs great and will go pretty quick if we put the pedal down. What does anyone need 260 horsepower for aside from towing your boat once a year?? If you have a boat.

We even got gas mileage in the upper 30's: 38-39 miles per gallon?, on a recent trip with perfect (55mp/h) driving conditions and a light foot. That was actually very exhilerating! (660 kms on a 50 liter tank--one of you math guys let me know if I'm way out of the ball park.) And we can stow 7 people with some luggage on the side and regularly pull a utility trailer for several years . I can't wait until I modify it to some sort of electric hybrid in 5 years time. I can't imagine the thrill of one day reading *100.00 mpg* on the dashboard.

Well, I'm not just here to boast about our van, but here's hoping that all the companies, not just the big three, will put away their blasted and frustrating inhibitions, whatever the sam-hill they might be, (gas-lobby??) and build much greener and more efficient cars. Then we can all enjoy something like our van, or even something much, much better in the future. I am so tire of waiting, although change is coming real soon I think.

I enjoy this websight enormously. Keep up the good work GCC!

Pascal Nelson

50 l = 13.2 gal (US)
660 km = 410 mi

gives 31.1 mpg (US)

Pascal Nelson

Just drove my new 2005 Toyota Prius on a 1100 mi trip (NC to FL and back). Got 53 mpg (US) while driving 65 - 75 mph.

Very satisfied. I wanted to maximize the mileage by driving 60 - 65 mph, but had a schedule that had to be met, and some traffic delays (semi-truck accidents) so had to drive faster when I could.

Shirley E

Let the free market decide.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

The government shouldn't decide what kind of vehicles you can buy.

"It's a hybrid - it burns gas AND rubber."

With similar kinds of rhetoric coming from both the automakers and the Administration (and its many supporters), of course neither would even think to suggest a government bailout of a corporation who failed in the free market by not selling what they're trying so hard to sell. That kind of welfare would be sooo un-republican. I include under "bailout" the government's stepping in to back failed pension programs so as to allow an inept and otherwise bankrupt company to continue operating.

The hard data above suggests that the free market wants smaller cars, or at least vehicles with greatly improved fuel economy. It's not like the American manufacturers don't know how to make such vehicles, it's apparently whether or not they can survive making them. The fact they're in their present dilemma is nobody's fault but their own management and its bad decisions; I mean, Toyota's sales of large vehicles are also down but I doubt they'll be relegated to junk bond status anytime soon. Who knows, GM might have been the market leader right now with their EV1 had they given it the chance that Toyota gave hybrids.

It's time for the Big 3 to show us what they are really made of. Are they bootstrappers, or bootlickers?

Calvin Brock

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