Auto Sales Putter Out
<b>Auto Sales Putter Out</b>

It was a rough year for the U.S. auto industry. Saab, Chrysler and GM all went bankrupt, gas prices fluctuated heavily, and industry sales on the whole tanked badly.  While the full sales for 2009 won’t be released until early next year, some industry research groups have started to crunch the numbers and make predictions. TrueCar, a pricing service that analyzes dealer and consumer trends, recently released a report of auto sales for 2009. They found that in total, only 10.2 million cars were sold this year in the United States, the lowest absolute sales since 1951. That means there were only 33 vehicles sold for every 1,000 people in the country. Even in that climate though, a few car companies thrived. Subaru’s sales actually increased by 13 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, making it the biggest winner for the year. With that in mind, here are the models that fared the best and worst in 2009, based on how much their sales increased or decreased compared to the previous year. We’ll start with the ten worst and work our way up to the ten best. Photo Credit: emilio labrador

10th Biggest Loser: Audi TT
<b>10th Biggest Loser: Audi TT</b>

Audi had mixed luck in 2009. Their sales slumped this year by about 8 percent, but they still fared better than many of their competitors in the luxury car market. However, the Audi TT had lackluster sales all year, with 59 percent fewer models sold in 2009 than in the previous year. According to BNET.com, Audi will invest $10 billion over the next three years to produce new models. Photo Credit: Audiusa.com

9th Biggest Loser: Toyota FJ Cruiser
<b>9th Biggest Loser: Toyota FJ Cruiser</b>

Toyota used to seem invincible but not anymore. Their sales have been mediocre this year at best and on top of that, they received a lot of bad publicity over recent safety recalls. Of all Toyota’s models, the FJ Cruiser may be the one to cause the company the most grief. The car has many haters, and there have been plenty of rumors that Toyota might discontinue the line. And perhaps they should. The FJ Cruiser started off the year poorly, like many SUV’s, and never really recovered. There were 59 percent fewer models sold this year than last year. Photo Credit: Toyota.com

8th Biggest Loser: Mitsubishi Galant
<b>8th Biggest Loser: Mitsubishi Galant</b>

Mitsubishi is not a very happy company these days. By the middle of this year, the company had only moved about 20,000 cars total in the U.S. Mitsubishi has already been forced to close some of their facilities to cut costs. Forbes speculated that Mitsubishi might be the next company to pack up their operations and leave the states. “Mitsubishi never recovered from a disastrous attempt to grow sales with what was a 'subprime mortgage stunt.' They sold cars to people who couldn't afford them and didn't even have the money for a down payment,” they wrote, explaining the poor sales.  Of their models, the Galant performed especially badly, with 61 percent fewer cars sold this year than in 2008. But that’s nothing compared to one of their other cars on this list. Photo Credit: Mitsucars.com

7th Biggest Loser: Volkswagen Passat
<b>7th Biggest Loser: Volkswagen Passat</b>

I personally love the Passat, but apparently the American people lost some of their affection for the vehicle this year. According to TrueCar, 62 percent fewer Passats sold this year than last year. In any case, as a consolation prize, the Passat has been named the used car of the decade for families and apparently the car is becoming popular in China. Photo Credit: jiazi

6th Biggest Loser: Mercedes Benz R-Class
<b>6th Biggest Loser: Mercedes Benz R-Class</b>

It should be no surprise that luxury lines like Mercedes had a turbulent time in the first half of this year. After all, we were in a recession. The company has seen sales improve a bit recently (after much restructuring), but its SUV sales remain pretty dismal. Case in point: the R-class. This car has been a troubled model pretty much since its introduction in 2005. Sales in 2008 dropped by more than 40 percent to just under 8,000 cars and this year sales dropped by 63 percent. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

5th Biggest Loser: Chrysler PT Cruiser
<b>5th Biggest Loser: Chrysler PT Cruiser</b>

We don’t need to tell you how tough this year has been for Chrysler, starting with the company’s bankruptcy filing. But one of its models has had a particularly bad year, too. Sales of the PT Cruiser declined by 65 percent in 2009 compared to last year. In fact, the car has become so unpopular that Chrysler almost discontinued the line entirely before deciding to extend its life by one more year. However, if you ask me, it deserves to die. It’s simply hideous looking. Just my opinion, of course, but apparently quite a few people share it. Photo Credit: Listener42

4th Biggest Loser: Toyota 4Runner
<b>4th Biggest Loser: Toyota 4Runner</b>

As bad as sales of the FJ Cruiser are, Toyota’s worst performing car in 2009 was the 4Runner. Sales of this model have declined 66 percent compared to last year. A big part of the problem is that the car is an SUV and consumers are shying away from big cars these days, largely because of gas prices. In fact, as Reuters recently noted, Toyota has seven different SUV models in total, but only one of them (the Rav4) has seen a sales growth this year. Toyota has no plans to scrap the vehicle; instead the company is upgrading it (one key improvement is better gas mileage) and they are playing around with the pricing in hopes of attracting more customers in 2010. Photo Credit: Toyota.com

3rd Biggest Loser: Chrysler Sebring
<b>3rd Biggest Loser: Chrysler Sebring</b>

The Sebring has been rated the worst car in America several times over, and at least once it was even rated the worst car in the world. This year, it’s only continued to be a commercial failure. Sales of the Sebring have declined 66 percent from last year. Within the next few years however, the company plans to revamp their entire lineup, including the Sebring. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chrysler “will update these cars to make them more comfortable and quieter, then replace them in 2012 with Fiat designs.” Maybe then they’ll have better luck with it. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

2nd Biggest Loser: BMW X3
<b>2nd Biggest Loser: BMW X3</b>

Overall, BMW has had a tough but decent year. The Wall Street Journal reports that BMW will likely be the best selling luxury car maker this year, thanks largely to a boost in sales at the end of the year. However, one of its models, the X3 SUV, has failed to gain any traction this year. According to Edmunds, less than 300 X3’s were sold in November and only 5,500 had been sold up to that point all year. One factor is that there are other similar models BMW offers, such as the X5, which are better designed and not much more in price. TrueCar is reporting that the X3 will suffer a 67 percent decrease in sales compared to last year. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

The Biggest Loser: Mitsubishi Eclipse
<b>The Biggest Loser: Mitsubishi Eclipse</b>

Like I said earlier, Mitsubishi has had a bad year in America, and the Eclipse typifies their problem. Sales of the eclipse are down 67 percent this year compared to 2008. Why? Well, the Eclipse isn’t a terrible car, but it’s not great either. It has the shell of a sports car, but as Yahoo Autos notes, none of the “power or agility.” And there are other cars out there like the Mazda Miata or a Hyundai Genesis Coupe, which offer a better value for the money. But perhaps the problem is that the car is just being sold at the wrong time, in the wrong place.  Forbes recently ran an excellent piece explaining why convertibles have declined in popularity here in America. That, combined with Mitsubishi’s subprime mortgage crisis mentioned earlier, certainly contribute to the Eclipse’s poor sales. Photo Credit: Felipe Lee

10th Biggest Winner: Mercedes Benz E-Class
<b>10th Biggest Winner: Mercedes Benz E-Class</b>

Though sales at Mercedes were flimsy much of the year, the company’s saving grace was its E-class line. Mercedes has started phasing out its old line of E-class cars and introduced a revamped model into the market last month, which helped to boost sales globally. For the year on the whole, sales of the E-class increased 7 percent compared to last year, and it will likely continue to increase in the near future. Mercedes is already unveiling new upgrades that will come to the market in the next two years, including an E-class hybrid and an E-class convertible. Photo Credit: Mbusa.com

9th Biggest Winner: Ford Escape
<b>9th Biggest Winner: Ford Escape</b>

Ford has been praised time and time again during the recession for their foresight. Not only did they handle their finances better than many of their peers (we’re talking about you, GM) but they also were prepared for the shift to hybrid cars.  The Ford Escape is one of the most successful hybrids currently on the market and helped to boost Ford’s sales in 2009. Sales of the Escape increased by 10 percent this year compared to 2008 and will likely increase again in 2010. But there’s another car in Ford’s lineup that has even brighter prospects. Photo Credit: Fordvehicles.com

8th Biggest Winner: Dodge Journey
<b>8th Biggest Winner: Dodge Journey</b>

It hasn’t been all bad news for Chrysler this year. From the beginning, Chrysler marketed the Dodge Journey as a solid value car, a message that really caught on with cash-strapped consumers in the last year. Sales of this car increased 10 percent compared to 2008. In fact, sales of the car rocketed up towards the end of this year even as sales of Dodge and Chrysler cars remained mostly stagnant, or declined. The Dodge Journey could be Chrysler’s ticket out of ruin. Photo Credit: jiazi

7th Biggest Winner: Nissan Maxima
<b>7th Biggest Winner: Nissan Maxima</b>

Nissan sales haven’t been great this year, dropping by nearly a quarter compared to last year, as of November.  But the company still fared better than many of its competitors, like Toyota, thanks in part to the success of its affordable and popular sedans like the Nissan Maxima, the sales of which increased by 10 percent compared to the previous year.  Nissan cut prices on the Maxima line early in the year  and on top of that, they heavily promoted discounts on many of their models in the middle of the year, helping to boost sales across the board. Photo Credit: nissanusa.com

6th Biggest Winner: Volkswagen Jetta
<b>6th Biggest Winner: Volkswagen Jetta</b>

The Jetta was in high demand this year after Volkswagen redesigned it to make the car more fuel efficient. Sales of the Jetta increased by 10 percent compared to 2008. On the whole, Volkswagen’s sales have suffered this year, but sales of Jetta have provided an end-of-the-year boost for the company. But Volkswagen has bigger goals in mind. BNET.com reports that Volkswagen’s plan is to be able to move 800,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. by 2018. By comparison, they have sold less than 200,000 cars this year, as of the end of the November. Photo Credit: vw.com

5th Biggest Winner: Ford Fusion
<b>5th Biggest Winner: Ford Fusion</b>

Ford is riding the wave of hybrid cars to boost its sales. As successful as the Ford Escape has been this year, the Fusion has performed even better. Sales of the Fusion have increased by 18 percent compared to 2008. In fact, the Fusion was the best selling vehicle of any domestic car manufacturer, as of November.  The car combines great gas mileage (up to 41 miles per gallon if you get the gas-electric hybrid version) and an attractive base price of just under $20,000 (though, as USA Today notes, many people seem happy to splurge on upgrades for the car). Motor Trend recently named the Fusion its car of the year, and it certainly looks like many Americans would agree. Photo Credit: planetc1

4th Biggest Winner: Lexus RX
<b>4th Biggest Winner: Lexus RX</b>

The RX is both an SUV and a luxury model, two traits that should put it at a disadvantage in this economic climate. But in recent years, Lexus rolled out a hybrid version of the RX that has sold very well. Ultimately, the car offers a smooth ride and a sweet looking exterior for a price that has attracted customers in good economic times and bad. Sales of the RX increased by 18 percent this year compared to last year, according to TrueCar, making it the best selling car in Lexus’ lineup, and one of the best performing cars of the year. Photo Credit: advencap

3rd Biggest Winner: Nissan Z
<b>3rd Biggest Winner: Nissan Z</b>

Nissan had a rough start to the year, slashing tens of thousands of jobs and preparing for a steep drop in annual sales. But there was a ray of light in all that – the Nissan Z. Sales of the Z increased by 25 percent this year compared to 2008. As the San Francisco Chronicle put it, the Z is a sports car in style and performance, but it has a sticker price in the low 30’s. If anything, the Z is proof that many Americans still want to treat themselves to a cool car; they just don’t want to empty their bank accounts to do it. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

2nd Biggest Winner: Subaru Forester
<b>2nd Biggest Winner: Subaru Forester</b>

As we mentioned in the introduction, Subaru was the best performing company of 2009, actually improving their sales by 13 percent this year, even as their competitors struggled just to keep pace with their previous year’s numbers. Leading the way for Subaru was the Forester, which sold 30 percent more this year than in 2008. The Subaru currently has the lowest starting price of any crossover SUV on the market (just over $20K). It gets good gas mileage for an SUV (24 miles per gallon on the highway) and it has been rated as a safer car than those SUV’s offered by many of its competitors. As ABC notes, “The Forester is a practical, rational purchase in a time of economic uncertainty.” Photo Credit: Subaru.com

The Biggest Winner: Audi A5
<b>The Biggest Winner: Audi A5</b>

Audi may had one of the worst performing cars of the year, the TT, but the A5 helped make up for that. Sales of the Audi A5 coupe increased by an incredible 50 percent this year compared to last year, making it the best year-over-year performer of 2009. To industry insiders though, this came as little surprise. The Boston Globe declared back in January that the A5 was a winner that “stands out from its competitors” thanks to its gorgeous sporty design. Congratulations, Audi, you are one step closer to conquering the luxury market. Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org

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