US December car sales add to automobile industry pain

US automobile sales dived by 36% in December, compared to a year ago, maintaining the disastrous trend of recent months, which has hit the car industry across the world. The latest figures reveal that the industry had its worst year since 1992 and the December figures were shocking for several firms, notably Chrysler, which saw its sales drop 53%. Hyundai took a hammering as well with a fall of 48% and even mighty Toyota had to absorb a hit of 37%, its worst sales figures in 28 years. BMW saw sales of its cars drop by 36% which was slightly worse than Honda, which reported sales were down 35%. Ford did better than expected with sales down only 32% while Nissan (31%), Mazda (26%), Mercedes-Benz (24%) and Volkswagen (14%) all followed the general trend.

In other markets the story was slightly better although sales in Spain were reportedly down 50%. Japan took a 22% hit but France did rather better with a drop of only 16%, good news for Renault.

In the overall scheme of things there was a drop of US car sales in 2008 of a frightening three million vehicles, the final figure coming out at 13.2m, compared to last year's 16.2m. This is the biggest fall the markets have seen since the Oil Crisis in the early 1970s.

While it may not be easy to see how all this has any direct effect on Formula 1, it must be remembered that the US markets are of key importance to the luxury car companies that are in competition in F1. This means that they will have less money to play with in the future and budgets must be amended accordingly.

The tumbling sales figures are despite some serious price-cutting in the US as the car companies try to get rid of unsold cars, in en effort to avoid the need to idle factories and lay-off workers. The fundamental problem remains that consumers are pulling back their spending as a result of the credit crunch.

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