Shock: Small Car Sales Up, SUV, Truck Sales Down in March


March wasn’t the best of months for car sales for the big automakers. Sales were down for most, and even less surprising was the trend of which cars were selling well and which weren’t. Last year at this time gas prices were $2.68 a gallon versus today’s $3.28, and the terms “housing crisis” and “recession” weren’t everyday headline fodder. 

That atmosphere has definitely impacted what cars are selling. In March, small cars like the Ford Focus — up 24% — and Honda Fit — up 73.8% — were bright spots almost universally among automakers. Hybrid sales were also up.

On the other end of the spectrum, trucks like the Ford F-Series – down 23.8% — and Dodge Ram — down 31% — saw huge losses, as did truck-based SUVs. The only real exceptions were Toyota’s new Sequoia, the Tundra and the Lexus LX 570.

These trends are likely to continue as long as the economy stays where it is. Even so, overall losses for the major companies stayed in the single digits for the most part, and new, well-reviewed models performed well. To me, that sounds like if automakers build the cars people want — whether they’re fuel-efficient or trendy newcomers — people will buy them. 

A short list of cars, trucks, SUVs and hybrids and their March 2008 sales performance is below.


  • Chevy Cobalt: Down 23.8%
  • Dodge Caliber: Up 10%
  • Ford Focus: Up 24%
  • Honda Civic: Up 18.3%
  • Honda Fit: Up 73.8%
  • Hyundai Elantra: Up 11.1%
  • Kia Spectra: Up 41.3%
  • Mitsubishi Lancer: Up 32.7%
  • Nissan Sentra: Up 21.4%
  • Nissan Versa: Up 34.2%
  • Toyota Corolla: Down 21.3% (mainly due to the changeover to the 2009 model)
  • Toyota Yaris: Up 83.2%
  • VW Jetta: Up 19.7%


  • Honda Civic Hybrid: Up 44.3%
  • Toyota Prius: Up 16%

Trucks and SUVs

  • BMW X5: Down 41.9%
  • Chevy Silverado: Down 23.5%
  • Chevy Tahoe: Down 34.2%
  • Dodge Durango: Down 38%
  • Ford Explorer: Down 14.8%
  • Ford F-Series: Down 23.8%
  • Honda Pilot: Down 23.6%
  • Hummer H3: Down 32.6%
  • Lexus LX 570: Up 156.1%
  • Nissan Titan: Down 44.9%
  • Toyota Sequoia: Up 19.8%
  • Toyota Tundra: Up 16.8%

*Some companies adjust percentages due to selling days. 2008 had two less selling days than 2007, so the percentages may appear higher.

By David Thomas | April 1, 2008 | Comments (37)
Tags: Car Buying


I think the Corrolla's sales were down not because of some changeover, but because their are so many more exciting choices. They never ran out of the 08's- the dealers here are still trying to sell them. I can't imagine that many of the the people were holding off for the new model to come with all the incentives Toyota has been putting in the 08's AND they look the same. Not to mention that there is a Yaris, Xb, and xd priced pretty close. And the jump to a prius isn't that big.

I am surprised about the Tundra, as it isn't brand new like the other two Big Toyotas, although there have been some really bg incentives to buy it too- at least here in houston.


Paul D

For what it's worth, Craigslist listings for cars in my area are like 5-to-1 trucks/SUVs to cars. People are clamoring to get rid of their gas guzzlers.

I recently sold my cherished '95 Bronco because it only got 11mpg.


Maybe a different class of buyer who isn't as prices senesitive as average consumer is buying Toyota's heavy metal. That must especially be the class for the premium Lexus SUV.

That might have been true in past months but large luxury SUVs from Land Rover, BMW and Mercedes saw steep declines in March.

The Corolla has actually been seeing very strong sales in recent months even though the model on lots was outdated.

Dave T.
Thats what I said- meaning that the drop in sales can't be blamed mainly on the changeover- you know, the note that you put in parenthesis next to corrolla on the list. I can see them running out of matrix's though, they are included in the corrolla numbers aren't they, that could account for the drop.


Not only is gas mileage a factor but also the price of the vehicle. Look at the price of the cars mentioned - 15k to 17k for most of them (except the hybrids) and then compare that to those trucks and SUVs - 28k to 32k+. Not only do people want to save money at the pump but they also don't want to spend a lot on a vehicle. Let's face it - more and more people are strapped for cash. In a report that came out this week- almost 10% of Americans are on food stamps!


my guess is that this is probably a temporary phenomenon. i think both because we Americans have terrible short-term memory loss problems. people will quickly get used to $4/ gal gas. also, car makers are slickly sneaking in changes to making their fat SUVs into "crossovers" that are hopefully going to continue to be more efficient

Thomas Friedman is right. The world gets flatter and flatter. And America may be the last outstanding island. The change will come here anyway. And this is not temporary one. We'll live with it. The rest of the world lives with it for some time.
We'll have to drive smaller cars, otherwise we'll ruin our budgets. We'll drop our car culture. Not at once, not in few years. But in 15-20 years. We'll go back to the cities and back to urbanization. Just like in 20 years people totally forgot what Oldsmobile is, they will forget about SUVs.
Only rich will drive those cars, just like everywhere else in the world. No Joe Doe will deliver pizza in SUV.
And most of us will be back to basics. And if anyone here thinks that gas prices are temporary, the recession. Let me tell you... Welcome to the new world, brother.


Nice to meet you.
I had a look at blog.
Please link to this site.

We need safer small cars. The auto companies are not interested until the public demands them.

Please look at my website. Then demand them.


Consumers are getting smarter about buying cars in these times. The internet affords them this power, and they are doing more online research then ever. Online consumer car research is reaching amazing levels: just put out some new stats on car buyer behavior, and it's pretty obvious they're doing more then price hunting.


People here are already used to $4 gallon fuel.

I'm on the expressway every day in Atlanta. Want to know how many drive at the speed limit?
I take that back. One.

So I'm researching the EV scene, just so I don't have to keep driving at 30mph slower than everybody else. It's pathetic but getting better.

One thing is certain: Don't count on FordGMHondaChrysleretc to go green. If you're serious you're going to have to do it yourself.
The GM 'Volt' is the EV1 all over again. I'll eat my hat if they actually make it. Chrysler is a big nowhere, Ford has a few hybrids (yawn) Honda is into hydrogen (oh good grief) and Toyota sued CA to thwart fuel economy legislation. The hybrids are there to keep us dependent on gas and as for the 'Smart', well, the hopeless 35-40mpg is a testament to its crappy aerodynamics.

But if you think that's bad news, the EV lot are not much better.
Aptera: Maybe late 2008 for CA sales only. Their video tour of their 'factory' was a letdown. But they are trying.
Tesla: Problems and uncertainty, but Mr Musk is not a quitter.
Miles: $39k for what amounts to an EV Civic. Late 2009 if we're lucky.

So it looks like I'm going to have to make an EV...

i dont think the drop in truck sales is going to be a long going trend. i think it will be a short term trend.

As long as Ford, GM and Chrysler or the "Big 3" as they are called continue to build autos that are not in demand, their sales will continue to decline.

Now with this fuel prices going down truck sales may be improving soon and more will join the business.


has anyone even given thought to the fact if the media would stop beating up on the truck world and get over telling people that we are in another depression this whole downspell of sales on our AMERICAN made trucks would turn around. I cant wait for the new 2010 ford fusion to hit the ground. that car is exactly what ford needs today! look it up in consumer reports. #1 midsize family sedan in america. and the 2010 regular all gas fusion will get better MPG than the honda or toyota hybrid will.

It was really surprising to know that the sales of truck have been down in March. Especially with SUV trucks being so rampant nowadays.

I read over your blog, and i found it inquisitive, you may also try
Trucks Suppliers Network for more information.


I think One Of the reasons why Truck Sales are down has to do, with the current Housing Market,
I don't think there is a lot of contractors getting new trucks this year.


May be the reason is recession and the effect is large for the truck owners...!

Interesting information. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up!

I'm not sure of how much of a shock this could be, gas prices being unstable as they are most people are opting for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Usually in four-wheel drive vehicles. Now, however, these are sometimes used as accessories to have a look off-road SUVs, trucks and even several cars.

I am not surprised with this information since i too noticed the dramatic increase in the number of this small cars on the street. It has advantages like having less traffic since small cars occupy less space on the street.

Gee, ya think? Of course smaller car sales are up! They're less expensive, more fuel efficient, and with the majority of the world going "green"--most are just generally better for the environment.

Here in the UK its all about how much these vehicles cost to run. The price for oil is crazy. Not only that we have the envronment to consider

I am also not surprise by the given figure. Now people are prefer to buy used luxurious car.

I agreed with rosshoston, I have bought Used Bmw from in Los Angeles.

My how things have changed. New SUV sales have really come back.

This piece of news came as quite a surprise at that time especially because SUV trucks were so rampant. I think now things would improve.

Thank you very much for the post. This is really great. Thanks for info, dear. Keep it up.

Fuel prices in the UK are rising very sharply and I think that is causing the number of these vehicles to 1. either not be bought, or 2. left in their garages as they cant afford to run them!!

Any journey less than 2 miles, just walk it. I know it seem ridiculous but after I analyzed my own car use, I soon realised a lot of my car use was a totally unnecessary. 12 months on and I've saved a lot of money on fuel, car servicing and as a bonus, I've lost 22 pounds without paying for the gym. We don't need to use anywhere near the fuel we do.

It will be interesting to see what happens by the end of this summer when gas prices continue to rise and rise.


Aren't the Spring seasons best for auto companies selling cars? Especially after doing your taxes, right? How many losses did they see?

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