How Has the '09 Turmoil Impacted the Auto Industry?

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SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Experian Automotive attempted to look beyond the major industry headlines of 2009 such as automaker bankruptcies and Cash for Clunkers and share other intriguing trends coming to the forefront.

A topic that kept returning by Webinar presenter Jeffrey Anderson was how much CUVs have taken hold in the market. Anderson indicated that the vehicle segment that now consists of about 60 different models at various trim levels is gaining more market share as quarters tick along.

"The segment is clearly pulling sales from existing SUV and minivan categories," noted Anderson, Experian's director of consulting and analytics.

Comparing new-vehicle registrations in the fourth quarter of 2009 to the same period of the previous year, Anderson showed that three of the top five categories with the highest gains were CUVs. He explained that many midsize and entry-level SUVs owners are moving to CUVs of similar trim level.

Two particular CUV models that attracted the most attention according to Experian, were models from Chevrolet. Anderson noted the Equinox and Traverse as two of the top-performing vehicles in the closing quarter of last year.

That nod to vehicles from General Motors also delved into another topic Anderson discussed at length — the fact that the automaker is attempting to retain market share while recovering from bankruptcy.

Anderson revealed that GM's market share slid 2.5 percentage points to 19.4 percent looking year-over-year from 2008 to 2009. He suggested that the company prevented it from being an even larger drop by retaining some consumers from brands it no longer manufacturers, such as Pontiac.

Among the market gainers he mentioned, in particular, were Ford and Hyundai, which each climbed between 1.5 and 2 percentage points from 2008 to 2009. Anderson also noted the steady market share performances of smaller brands such Subaru and Volkswagen.

"The battle for market share continues to be fierce," Anderson admitted. "Every day it's a new marketing program, a new incentive program."

While some automakers enjoyed upward swings, Anderson also pointed out the continuing struggles of Chrysler. The Experian data showed that the company's market share slid from 10.9 percent in 2008 down to 8.9 percent in 2009.

When looking at consumer brand loyalty, Anderson demonstrated that trends in this area mirrored how automakers stood in market share.

GM's corporate loyalty was the highest in Experian's data set, coming in at 52.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. Toyota and Ford trailed just behind with virtually the same percentage.

Tumbling down during much of last year was Chrysler's brand loyalty. It hovered above 40 percent at the beginning of 2009, but Anderson revealed that it closed at 26.2 percent.

Some specific vehicles that enjoyed the strongest brand loyalty to close 2009 came from Ford. Leading Experian's chart was the Fusion at nearly 70 percent. Ford actually posted six of the top 10 vehicles mentioned by Anderson in the discussion. The other units were the Edge, Five Hundred, Flex, Escape and Freestyle.

Moving on to another significant event from last year, Anderson went into a recap of how Cash for Clunkers affected the industry. He cited Experian data that revealed about 25 percent of all new-vehicle registrations during the third quarter of 2009 stemmed from this federal incentive program.

And the brands that benefited most from the sales jump — Toyota and Honda.

"They had the vehicles that met many of the program requirements," Anderson said.

Finally, Anderson also shared some Experian data about vehicles currently in operation.

The company reported that almost 240 million vehicles were on the roads at the close of 2009, a figure about 721,000 lower than the previous quarter. Anderson attributed this trend to lower retail sales volumes and a higher scrap rate.

Of the vehicles currently in use, Experian determined 80 percent are less than 14 years old. The vast majority of those units (91 million) also come from the model years 2000 through 2005.

Anderson pointed out that although some significant attention has been paid to growing interest in hybrid vehicles, he thinks Experian's data shows otherwise. He shared that only 0.67 of the units in use are hybrid models.

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