Tim O'Brien | Jan 7, 2009

Guess… what was the top selling car in the US for 2008? Toyota Camry? Honda Accord maybe? Or that evergreen favourite, the Chevrolet Impala? Something smallish… would have to be, wouldn’t it?

Nope, no again… and no.

Top selling car in the US for 2008 was the Ford F150 with 515,513 total sales. Second place went to Chevy fatso, the Silverado, with 465,065 sales; and third, the eminently sensible Toyota Camry with 436,617 sales.

Also in the top ten, coming in at ninth place, was the Dodge Ram with 245,840 sales. (You familiar with it? It’s big… it could tow a Collins Class submarine to Perth and back.)

And you were thinking maybe that high fuel prices, a stink-ridden economy, a financial sector with a net worth of around three riotous farts (at a stretch), combined with recession and widespread job losses, would see US motorists (those still with the necessary cashola) jumping only into fuel-sipping small fours and hybrids.

2007 Chevrolet Silverado LT Regular Cab

Well no. Things might be heading down the toilet, and they might not be buying them in sufficient numbers to keep the ‘Big Three’ local brands afloat, but Americans still prefer their big rigs. And while the market share for these vehicles is going down like the spuds at an Irish breakfast, the real problem for US car makers is that the whole car market has collapsed.

(Even Toyota US was down 15.4 percent in 2008, Prius down 12.6 percent.)

The special headache for Ford, GM and Chrysler in this environment is that they have been bleeding red ink for too long. They are simply not selling enough cars, have too many hoary out-dated plants operating under-capacity, are burdened with under-funded pension and health plan obligations, and have burned through their cash reserves. When sales of big rigs and SUVs were booming, they had enough cash flowing in the door to keep the show on its legs, and could ignore their underlying problems and the crisis in waiting.

That’s changed; nothing like a little financial meltdown to bring the chooks home to roost and crapping on the carpet. Even 500,000 F150 sales is a dismal result for Ford. To give you some perspective on this, Ford sold no less than 939,000 of its F-Series in 2005.

toyota-camry

Last year, 2008, saw US automakers holding just 47.5 percent of domestic sales. This was the first year – ever – that their combined market share fell below 50 percent. Ten years ago, they held around 70 percent of the market.

While the 13.2 million sales across the industry was at a 16 year low, GM’s total US sales in 2008 was the smallest since 1959; Ford’s its smallest since 1961.

What this means is that despite the billions now flowing into the black holes formerly known as GM and Chrysler, neither is out of the woods yet. You’ve got to pick Chrysler as a goner. Chrysler’s sales plummeted 53.1 percent in December and 30 percent over the year.

And GM? Though it fell 31.4 percent in December and 22.9 percent over the year, it’s doubtful the US Government will let it fall. It is simply too big.

honda-accord

Just for the record, here are the top ten best-selling cars in the US In 2008.

1. Ford F-Series: 515,513

2. Chevy Silverado: 465,065

3. Toyota Camry: 436,617

4. Honda Accord: 372,789

5. Toyota Corolla: 351,007

6. Honda Civic: 339,289

7. Nissan Altima: 269,668

8. Chevy Impala: 265,840

9. Dodge Ram: 245,840

10. Honda CR-V: 197,279

And lest you accuse us of leaving you under-informed, here are the ten worst-selling cars in the US for the first 11 months of 2008, in reverse order (and showing their percentage sales decline from 2007).

10. Toyota FJ Cruiser 25,500 (-50.3 percent)

9. Jeep Commander 25,406 (-55 percent)

8. GMC Envoy 22,716 (-49.1 percent)

7. Dodge Durango 19,985 (-54 percent)

6. Hummer H3 19,152 (-51.2 percent)

5. Nissan Armada 14,753 (-49.1 percent)

4. Chrysler Pacifica 6,227 (-87 percent)

3. Hummer H2 5,721 (-49.3 percent)

2. Mitsubishi Endeavor 5,687 (-49 percent)

1. Hyundai Entourage 5,405 (-67.7 percent)