Is Detroit's comeback over? Carmakers lose market share gains

Apr 17, 2012

Last year, everyone in the auto industry was chuffed about Detroit’s comeback.

The carmakers were enjoying a healthy rebound from the bankruptcies at General Motors and Chrysler. And for a while, at least, Chrysler outsold Toyota to make the Detroit Three the Big Three again.

But this year, Detroit’s market share has been slipping, and that has ramifications all across the Midwest.

In fact, the auto companies have fallen back to the market share level they held in 2009, as GM and Chrysler were struggling.

In a piece for Forbes.com, I look at what happened to the Detroit companies during the first quarter.

Basically, there are three issues: 

1) GM and Ford are losing share. In March, GM’s market share fell to a 90-year low. And while Ford’s car sales are up in 2012, they aren’t up as much as the competition. That’s one way a company can lose share, by not keeping up.

2) Toyota got stronger. Japan’s biggest carmaker was battered by millions of recalls, the tsunami and earthquake and floods in Thailand. But its market share is climbing back, thanks to new members of the Prius family, and the newest version of the Camry.

3) Korean and European companies are gaining. Hyundai and Kia are causing headaches for all kinds of automakers with their sales gains. Volkswagen is picking up market share, too, and it’s planning to build more cars at its new plant in Tennessee.

Here’s how Detroit’s market share looks, according to Autodata, Inc.

2012: 44.3 percent (through March)

2011: 47 percent

2010: 45.1 percent

2009: 44 percent