Despite Crash, Auto Makers Have Solid Year

Times Staff Writers

One year ago, the prospects for the 1988 model year hardly could have looked worse for the auto industry.

After all, the model year was less than three weeks old when Wall Street came tumbling down. All bets were off in Detroit after Oct. 19.

But as Tuesday’s release of model year sales data proved once more, the stock market crash didn’t seem to have lingering effects on consumers. Although sales were slightly down for the 1988 model year from the year before, the industry still turned in a solid, if unspectacular, performance, after the brief post-crash pause.

The auto industry said Tuesday it sold 10,459,561 passenger cars during the 12 months from Oct. 1, 1987, to Sept. 30, 1988; that was down just 0.7% from 1987’s total. Of those, the domestic auto makers sold 7,329,561 cars, down 0.2%, while the imports sold an estimated 3,130,000 cars, down 1.9%.


The share of the U.S. car market held by imports slipped to 29.9%, compared with 30.3% a year earlier. Part of the explanation is that most major Japanese companies are building cars in the United States and sales of those cars are counted in the domestic figures.

Analysts agreed that the auto market had not suffered any lasting scars from the crash.

“The bottom line is that it has actually been a real good year,” said Chris Cedergren, a sales analyst with J. D. Power & Associates, an automotive market research firm in Agoura Hills.

Among the major domestic firms, Ford continued its remarkable recovery during the year, posting a 3.2% sales gain. General Motors, meanwhile, which seems to be slowly recovering from its long slide, reported that its sales fell 4.6%. Chrysler’s sales rose 3.8%.


“The star of the show is still Ford,” added Cedergren.

Total car and truck sales for the year were 15.6 million, making 1988 the third-best year for total vehicle sales, behind 1986 and 1985.

AUTO/TRUCK SALES Percentage changes in car and light truck sales for the model year 1988 are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. Foreign makers’ sales include both vehicles manufactured overseas and in U.S.

% Model 1988 change GM 3,547,222 -4.6 Ford 2,140,289 +3.2 Chrysler 1,050,551 +3.8 Honda 350,035 +13.6 Nissan 110,517 -10.2 Toyota 60,076 +61.0 Mazda 23,040 -- Total Domestic 7,329,561 -0.2 Total Foreign 3,130,000 -1.9 Total Industry 10,459,561 -0.7 Domestic Trucks 4,476,000 +13.1 Import Trucks 699,000 -27.3 Truck Industry 5,175,000 +5.2