2011 Ups and Downs
2011 was the second up year in a row for the American auto industry with total sales of 12.8 million units. But Mother Nature, a hesitant economy, and just plain old bad luck conspired to give automakers plenty of ups and downs.
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March had a devastating effect on car sales, shutting plants and disrupting vehicle and parts deliveries for months. Toyota and Honda were hardest hit, with their annual US sales dipping by 7.5 and 5.3 percent respectively.
On the other hand, domestic automakers had a strong sales upswing in 2011. While General Motors led the way with a sales volume of over 2.5 million vehicles, Ford’s annual sales broke the 2 million vehicle mark, the most for any single brand since 2007. The Chrysler Group sold more than 1.3 million cars and trucks and saw the biggest percentage gain with a 26% jump over 2010.
New hybrid and electric car offerings seemed to spark more controversy than sales. High prices and questions about battery safety plagued both the Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma, while ignition issues forced a recall of the Nissan Leaf.
Ironically, the comeback kid for 2011 was the good old internal combustion engine, albeit with a new twist. Mazda, Hyundai, Ford, GM and others have introduced new ultra-efficient gas engines and the list of non-hybrid compact cars that can achieve 40 mpg is growing by the minute.
Swedish carmaker Saab saw more deaths and resurrections than Lazarus in 2011, but now with bankruptcy and liquidation looming, Saab may have finally reached the end of the road.
An up and down year for sure, but let’s hope for a more stable 2012.