Winners and Losers in 2008? Not What You Might Think


You will be punished with many news stories about the sad state of the auto industry this week — just in time for the Detroit auto show opening to the media on Sunday — but none of those stories will break down the numbers like we do below. You see, after months of hearing that no one wants to buy American and no one wants big SUVs or trucks, it appears someone forgot to tell that to consumers.

American trucks still dominate the sales leader lists, as we told you earlier, comprising three of the top 10 sellers for 2008. Meanwhile, only two cars on the list, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, get 35 mpg or better on the highway.

So what were the biggest winners this year in terms of sales boosts? While cars like the Honda Fit and Chevy Malibu saw 40% increases in sales year-over-year, the big winner may surprise you.

The redesigned Lexus LX 570 SUV — with its 383-hp V-8, 14 mpg combined mileage rating and nearly $80,000 price tag — saw the biggest year-over-year boost in sales of any model, with an increase of nearly 220%. Its Toyota sibling the Sequoia, with its 15 mpg combined rating, saw a healthy 31% bump in sales. Now, these figures are a tad out of whack because these vehicles’ overall sales numbers are lower than more traditional cars; only 7,915 LX 570s were sold in 2008. For comparison, Mercedes’ GL-Class sold 23,328 units in 2008, down 11.6% from 2007, while the more affordable Chevy Suburban sold 54,058 units, down 35.4%.

Still, the fact remains that millions of people bought trucks and SUVs in a down economy with rollercoaster swings in gas prices. Even so, the Ford F-Series and Chevy Silverado were down nearly 25% each — but then, the gas-thrifty Toyota RAV4 was also down 21%.

We’re not going to ignore the fact that many SUVs saw huge drops in sales, but that’s also coming off extremely high records in sales the year before. Eight out of 10 of the vehicles with the biggest drops in sales in 2008 were SUVs or trucks. Below is a list of the top 10 cars, trucks and SUVs that saw the biggest increases and decreases for 2008.

GM has two of the biggest gainers, with the redesigned Chevy Malibu and Pontiac Vibe both seeing healthy sales in 2008. The Subaru Forester’s spike in sales helped make Subaru the only automaker in 2008 that saw an overall sales increase.

*We only looked at cars with full production runs in both 2007 and 2008. Many of the biggest losers were obviously discontinued models. Those aren’t included here, and nor are cars that were introduced in 2007 without a full year of sales, which would skew their 2008 gains higher.

Biggest Decrease in Sales in 2008

  • Mercury Mountaineer: -55.6%, 10,596 total units sold
  • Hummer H3: -52.4%, 20,681
  • Volvo S60: -51.6%, 8,966
  • Hummer H2: -51%, 6,095
  • Dodge Nitro: -51%, 36,368
  • Nissan Armada: -50.4%, 15,685
  • Nissan Titan: -48.3%, 34,053
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser: -48.2%, 28,668
  • Chrysler 300: -48%, 62,352
  • Nissan Pathfinder: -46.8%, 33,555

Biggest Sales Increases in 2008

  • Lexus LX 570: +219.7%, 7,915 total units sold
  • Dodge Viper: +169%, 1,172
  • Honda Fit: +40.9%, 79,794
  • Chevy Malibu: +38.9%, 178,253
  • Subaru Forester: +36.4%, 60,748
  • Toyota Sequoia: +31.5%, 30,693
  • Pontiac Vibe: +25.2%, 46,551
  • Toyota Yaris: +20.3%, 103,328
  • Toyota Land Cruiser: +16.5%, 3,801
  • Mercedes C-Class: +13.8%, 72,471

Late Figures

  • Mazda 5: +60%, 22,021 total units sold
  • Hyundai Sonata: +24%, 145,568
By David Thomas | January 6, 2009 | Comments (15)



This is another example why people shouldn't believe what they see in the news. Although sales are down, they are down across the industry. Silverado and Sierra combine for the most sales of any vehicle, with the F-150 not far behind. GM can't brag about this because it might give the public the impression that it builds nothing but SUVs and trucks.


"GM can't brag about this because it might give the public the impression that it builds nothing but SUVs and trucks."

Probably because they do.

Yukon/Yukon XL
Escalade/Escalade ESV/EXT
Hummer H2/H3
Two full lines of pickups

Even Colorado, Canyon and H3 are available with V8 power now.

And up until very recently:
TB EXT/Envoy XL/Ascender LWB

That's 25 right there. GM is still punchdrunk in love with SUV's and Trucks.

There are not 25. You may want to update yourself. A lot of those models are not even being made anymore. Plus the Lamdas and SRX are crossovers, if you include them you may as well include the Equinox, and the Torrent in your little rant.


But going by your list they will only have 13 as early as this year, 09. That's a pretty monumental shift no?


They are in love with SUVs and pickups because that's what people ARE BUYING. I agree that they shouldn't rely on SUVs so much, but if that's what people want, then that's what you make. GM just needs to work on their infrastructure so that they can respond more quickly to the market, they need to be able to throttle down truck production and increase car production when the market swings back and forth.

FJ Cruiser
Land Cruiser

All brought to you by Toyota, the supposed leader in environmentally conscious transportation choices.

Businesses will go out of their way to keep a product alive if it's been selling decently - hence, the large number of GM trucks/SUVs. Even if they are trying to go for a more conscious image, they can't just drop those products with a blank of an eye. I think part of the whole crossover deal lately is trying to wean America off our "bigger is better" habit when it comes to car-buying. Time will tell what direction it goes from there, although I doubt automobiles will get bigger.


Who is naive enough that Toyota is the "leader" of environmental friendly automaker needed to do a little more research.
By the way, did I see someone forgot to mention the RAV4 or they didn't count it because it is a crossover? If so, why did I see Highlander up there as well?


The Sequoia is not the Toyota version of the LX 570. the Land Cruiser is.

Thanks JM you are correct. I changed the language to better reflect the looser relation between the two.



Derrick G

You read the Hyundai figures backwards. The Sonata only sold 117,357 in '08. It's off by 24%.


It is possible a list without the "niche cars" like the Viper and the Lexus...?

Or even better, the complete list of all makes and models, or a link to look at this


Why does the Dodge Nitro sell so poorly in the U.S.? In Europe the Nitro does pretty well with its unique bold design and the compact size (compared to Durango). One has to say however that most of the sold units come with the 2.8 CRD I-4 Diesel engine(177 HP) with much better mileage than the 3.7 V6 or 4.0 V6.Any explanation?


"The redesigned Lexus LX 570 SUV — with its 383-hp V-8, 14 mpg combined mileage rating and nearly $80,000 price tag — saw the biggest year-over-year boost in sales of any model, with an increase of nearly 220%. Its Toyota sibling the Sequoia..."

FACT CHECK: The LX 570 is a Lexus-badged variant of the Toyota Land Cruiser, not the Sequoia.

Post a Comment 

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • If you don't want people to see your email address, simply type in the URL of your favorite website or leave the field empty.
  • Do not mention specific car dealers by name. Feel free to mention your city, state and brand.
  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers. This blog is not a fan or enthusiast forum, it is meant to help people during the car-buying process and during the time between purchases, so shoppers can keep a pulse on the market.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
view posting rules

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Search Results

KickingTires Search Results for

Search Kicking Tires

KickingTires iPhone App