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Imports Pass Big Three in Retail Market Share

There’s nothing like playing with the numbers to make a big story, or in this case a big report. As part of this blog’s job of informing car buyers, we have to explain the latest finding by R.L. Polk that says imports have overtaken domestic manufacturers in retail market share.

We have no issue with excluding fleet sales to come up with the numbers of 53% import market share versus 47% market share for the domestics. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler sell thousands of vehicles to rental car companies, governments and other industries, and they count those numbers in monthly sales figures even if they sell them at steep discounts. None of them reach the retail consumer.

Without those sales, Toyota, Honda, BMW and nine other import brands combined to pass the Big Three. Of course it sounds unfair to gang up on three automakers, but we really took issue with the fact that Big Three owned or partnered import brands, like GM’s Saab; Ford’s Land Rover, Volvo, Aston Martin and Jaguar; and Chrysler’s Mercedes-Benz (as part of DaimlerChrysler) counted against them, when in fact the profits or losses generated from those brands impact the domestic companies. Why is Land Rover’s recent success being counted against Ford?

All this report does is deal a psychological blow to American manufacturers. We think the numbers that show Toyota (932,229 vehicles) catching up to GM (1,168,046) and Honda (604,871) getting close to Ford (768,003) are actually more important than the cumulative total.

[Imports Overtake Big 3, Automotive News – registration required]

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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