Shock: Small Car Sales Up, SUV, Truck Sales Down in March

March wasn’t the best of months for car sales for the big automakers. Sales were down for most, and even less surprising was the trend of which cars were selling well and which weren’t. Last year at this time gas prices were $2.68 a gallon versus today’s $3.28, and the terms “housing crisis” and “recession” weren’t everyday headline fodder. 

That atmosphere has definitely impacted what cars are selling. In March, small cars like the Ford Focus — up 24% — and Honda Fit — up 73.8% — were bright spots almost universally among automakers. Hybrid sales were also up.

On the other end of the spectrum, trucks like the Ford F-Series – down 23.8% — and Dodge Ram — down 31% — saw huge losses, as did truck-based SUVs. The only real exceptions were Toyota’s new Sequoia, the Tundra and the Lexus LX 570.

These trends are likely to continue as long as the economy stays where it is. Even so, overall losses for the major companies stayed in the single digits for the most part, and new, well-reviewed models performed well. To me, that sounds like if automakers build the cars people want — whether they’re fuel-efficient or trendy newcomers — people will buy them. 

A short list of cars, trucks, SUVs and hybrids and their March 2008 sales performance is below.


  • Chevy Cobalt: Down 23.8%
  • Dodge Caliber: Up 10%
  • Ford Focus: Up 24%
  • Honda Civic: Up 18.3%
  • Honda Fit: Up 73.8%
  • Hyundai Elantra: Up 11.1%
  • Kia Spectra: Up 41.3%
  • Mitsubishi Lancer: Up 32.7%
  • Nissan Sentra: Up 21.4%
  • Nissan Versa: Up 34.2%
  • Toyota Corolla: Down 21.3% (mainly due to the changeover to the 2009 model)
  • Toyota Yaris: Up 83.2%
  • VW Jetta: Up 19.7%


  • Honda Civic Hybrid: Up 44.3%
  • Toyota Prius: Up 16%

Trucks and SUVs

  • BMW X5: Down 41.9%
  • Chevy Silverado: Down 23.5%
  • Chevy Tahoe: Down 34.2%
  • Dodge Durango: Down 38%
  • Ford Explorer: Down 14.8%
  • Ford F-Series: Down 23.8%
  • Honda Pilot: Down 23.6%
  • Hummer H3: Down 32.6%
  • Lexus LX 570: Up 156.1%
  • Nissan Titan: Down 44.9%
  • Toyota Sequoia: Up 19.8%
  • Toyota Tundra: Up 16.8%

*Some companies adjust percentages due to selling days. 2008 had two less selling days than 2007, so the percentages may appear higher.

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