2009 auto sales lowest since 1970; rebound likely in 2010

Jan. 4, 2010

Car and light truck sales totaled 10.4 million in 2009, the lowest since 1970, according to data release_notesd by Edmunds.com. The numbers should start to creep back up in 2010 to 11.5 million.

The auto industry sold 16 million new vehicles per year during the mid-2000s before sales fell 36.4 percent from 2007 to 2009.

“The best thing that might be said about the year the auto industry - and an economically battered nation - is preparing to close: it probably can't get any worse,” said AutoObserver.com senior editor Bill Visnic.

With new car sales down, used car prices rose in 2009 because inventory was limited and demand was strong, according to Edmunds.com analyst Joe Spina. The average retail “true market” value for three-year-old vehicles increased 4.1 percent, while values for 10-year-old vehicles increased 5 percent over 2008 averages.

“The price of gasoline was relatively low – an average of 32 percent lower than last year – so most consumers hardly felt compelled to shop for more fuel efficient vehicles,” said Edmunds’ GreenCarAdvisor.com senior editor John O’Dell. Hybrid vehicle market share was 2.4 percent at the beginning of the year and peaked at 3.6 percent in July.

New light vehicle sales are expected to increase in 2010 by 11 percent to 11.5 million units sold.

Edmunds.com expects 2010 will be the year of the electric car, with the introduction of the all-electric Nissan Leaf and two extended-range plug-in hybrids: the Chevrolet Volt and the Fisker Karma.

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