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Auto Sales Plummet, SUV's Hit Hard

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted July 2, 2008





Back in the day my pal Will had the coolest car on the lot. It wasn’t a Camaro, a Trans Am, or even a Firebird.

It was a Checker, and there was nothing like it in any zip code that I was familiar with.

He called it his lead sled and it was a name  that was well earned. It was massive. In fact, it was so big that you could literally stretch your legs out in the back seat as far as you could and never get anywhere close to the front seat.

As for the trunk, well you could practically live in it.

But the Checker had become something of dinosaur by the late 70’s and the last one rolled off the assembly line on July 12, 1982. Poor gas mileage and new governmental regulations had basically sealed its fate.

But the Checker Motors Corp. was hardly alone. The market had changed them all. And by the mid-80’s cars were never quite the same.

Now some 30 years later high oil prices have returned once again with a vengeance. But the story really isn’t any different—the automakers have been  caught flat-footed again.

That was the underlying story in yesterday’s report on new car sales. 

Aside from that the numbers across the board were just plain awful. It looks like it will be another painful transition for the industry.

Here’s the skinny.

From AP by Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin entitled: June car sales plummet; more declines expected

“A last-minute no-interest financing offer and strong sales of some cars helped General Motors Corp. keep its U.S. sales over Toyota Motor Corp. last month, but it was still the worst June for the industry in 17 years and a harbinger of more misery ahead.

“We’re going to continue to see declines for the rest of the year,” predicted Jesse Toprak, chief industry analyst for auto information site

All major automakers but Honda Motor Co. reported steep sales declines for June as buyers continued to flee from trucks and sport utility vehicles to more fuel-efficient models. High gas prices and a sluggish economy helped keep sales low.

Even Toyota, with its flexible, efficient factories, couldn’t make the shift from trucks to cars as quickly as American drivers. Its sales for June shrank 21 percent from a year earlier, and it fell far short of some analysts’ predictions that it would overtake GM.

I think the gas price rise that we’ve seen from March through June was so fast and so dramatic that even Toyota, which is known to really forecast consumer demand, was caught off guard,” he said.

As the market shifted, some automakers were caught with too few of the smaller cars.

That includes Toyota, which didn’t have enough of its fuel-efficient Prius, Corolla or Yaris cars at dealerships to keep up with demand. Prius sales were hurt by a battery shortage, while sales of the Corolla and Yaris suffered because of plant capacity.

“That just shows the market forces changed extremely fast. No automaker was ready for it,” Toprak said.”

And neither for that matter was the Checker.

Man that was one great car.