Honda Civic Now America's Best-Selling Vehicle

Posted: June 4, 2008

There's a new best-selling vehicle in America, and for the first time in 17 years, it's not a pickup truck.  It's a Japanese compact car that can be bought for under $20,000 and, even without its optional hybrid powertrain, squeezes over 30 miles of travel out of each gallon of $4 gas.

The best-selling vehicle in the U.S. is now the Honda Civic.

USA Today explains, "Not only was Ford's F-Series pickup, a longtime sales king, passed by Honda's Civic, the May leader, but also by three more cars -- Toyota's Camry and Corolla, and Honda's Accord."  May wasn't a complete loss for U.S. automakers.  "The subcompact Chevy Aveo was up 44%, the compact Pontiac Vibe up 72%, and the Chevy Cobalt, up 19%."  Sales of Ford's Focus increased by 53%. The newly redesigned Chevy Malibu sold so well that, according to GM vice president Mark LaNeve, "We just ran out of product."

But small and midsize car sales couldn't rescue U.S. automakers from a historic loss.  According to the New York Times, May marked the first time that Asian automakers outsold all of Detroit's big three.  "General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler combined for a record low market share of 44.4 percent, compared with 48.1 percent for 10 Asian brands, according to the Autodata Corporation, the industry statistics firm."

Automakers overall lost money last month, continuing a historic slide now into its seventh month.  The Detroit Free Press reports, "Industrywide sales of new vehicles declined 10.7% in May."  SUV and large truck sales led the plunge, dropping off 23.6% even as car sales rose 2.4%.

But the top spot illustrates the shifting American automobile market best.  The last time the F-150 was not the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. was June, 2005, "when the Chevrolet Silverado pickup took a brief lead," according to the AP.

The last time a car led auto sales, according to Motor Trend, was September, 1991. 

The Civic has never even been Honda's best-selling car before.  It topped the Accord for the first time ever in May.  Though the Civic is available as a fuel-sipping hybrid, gasoline-powered Civic still drove the sales trend.  Kicking Tires reports, "Of the 53,299 Civics sold in May, 4,676 were hybrids."  In further proof that Americans are now thinking small, the Corolla outsold the Camry for the first time last month as well. 

As Autoblog comments, "Note to automakers: that would be the sound of the canary in your coal mine hitting the floor."

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