Explaining Southern California's economy

2012 auto sales: Trucks are back, but so are the Japanese carmakers

2013 Ford F-150

Ford

The Ford F-150 pickup had a very good December — and a nice 2012, as Detroit carmakers saw sales of pickups recover. But Japanese carmakers also fared well.

All the major automakers who sell vehicles in the United States have reported December sales and there are two main storylines:

•Trucks are back

•The Japanese are, too

Let's tackle the second one first. After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Toyota and Honda lost significant market share in the U.S., where both had thrived up to that point. The catastrophes severely disrupted the global automotive supply chain. Although both companies operate plants in the U.S., they weren't able to built enough vehicles to meet rising demand.

Nissan fared better, largely because its supply chains are less concentrated in Japan.

General Motors reclaimed the top spot in U.S. market share, and Ford was able to surge past Honda, which was entering something of an identity crisis as U.S. consumers fell out of love with the Accord and Civic sedans they had reliably purchased for years.

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FAQ: Was the General Motors bailout really worth it?

General Motors Offers Stocks At $33 A Share For Initial Public Offering

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Signs stand in front of the General Motors world headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. The U.S. Treasury will sell its remaining stake in the company over the next year or so.

The day has finally arrived. The U.S. Treasury will sell off its stake in General Motors, the automaker that, along with Chrysler, was bailed out in 2009 before it declared bankruptcy and  returned to the public markets via a massive $20 billion IPO in 2010.

The government put $50 million into GM and has gotten back about $30 billion. That figure includes a pre-loaded GM buyback of 200 million of its own shares from the Treasury at $27.50 a pop, a modest premium on Tuesday's closing price that amounts to $5.5 billion.

The remaining $2o billion (more or less) and the government's 300 remaining shares will be dealt with in slow motion fashion over the next 15 months, to avert a big dump of shares on the market. To make back the $20 billion, GM's stock price would have to rise to $72, a highly unlikely event. So the Treasury is admitting that it will "lose" money on the deal.

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LA Auto Show: New Jaguar F-Type and Land Rover Range Rover (photos)

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Jaguar F-Type at the LA Auto Show. This beauty will do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, as long as you spend $92,000 to get the supercharged V8 version.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The Land Rover Range Rover sits in a shallow puddle at the LA Auto Show. It can handle a lot more than that.


At this week's L.A. Auto Show, Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) pulled the cover off the new F-Type for the first time in the U.S. (it had already debuted in Paris earlier this year) and unveiled the new Land Rover Range Rover, its top-of-the line SUV.

In top trim, the F-Type comes with a supercharged V8 engine that makes almost 500 horsepower and can do 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. It costs $92,000. It was also mobbed by photographers at the L.A. Auto Shows media preview days pretty much all day long.

JLR ensconsed its new Land Rover Range Rover in a shallow pool of water filled with stones, perhaps to depict the machines august stream-fording capabilities. The Range Rover is ideal for the aspiring country squire of means — and he'd better have the means, given the $83,500 price tag for the 2013 model. 

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Photos: LA Auto Show highlights include Ford's new Fiesta, concepts from Honda and Nissan, the improved GT-R

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Ford's redesigned 2014 Fiesta at the LA Auto Show. There a 3-cylinder engine under that snout. That's right, a 3-cylinder engine.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The new Ford Fiesta retains the compact Euro-hatchback design that makes it a winner for versatility. It's half small car, half wagon.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Nissan's Hi-Cross Concept crossover. It's a small crossover SUV with the bold styling that has become a hallmark of Nissan vehicles.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

A single piece of glass spans from the windshield to the rear hatch on Nissan's Hi-Cross Concept vehicle. Let the sun and moonshine in!

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Honda Accord's plug-in hybrid vehicle on display at the LA Auto Show. The evolution of the ever-popular sedan continues.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Honda's EV-Ster electric concept car. In fact, it's really and electric concept roadster — and it looks like something a kid who really, really likes space ships would dream up.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The Honda EV-Ster Concept is an electric car with a throwback roadster vibe. If you're throwing back to the 23rd century and like to hang out with space aliens.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The interior of Honda's electric concept car EV-Ster. Look Ma, no steering wheel!

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

2014 Nissan GT-R at the LA Auto Show. It's not a brave new look for Nissan's 545-horsepower supercar. But it's still a GT-R. And it's still Godzilla.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

Inside, the 2014 Nissan GT-R finally shows some manners. But don't be fooled! All that stitched leather hides a cruel heart that wants to do nothing but go very, very fast.

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Anibal Ortiz / KPCC

The Nissan GT-R doesn't like speed bumps. Doesn't like them at all.


Earlier  Wednesday, I blogged about how the 2012 L.A. Auto Show is less about green cars and concept cars than it is about cars as rolling platforms for smartphones and apps. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of save-the-world and see-the-future cars in the mix (as well as one or two rides designed to frighten small animals)! It wouldn't be the L.A. Auto Show without them!

Flip through the slide show for some highlights of the good, the bad, and the high-concept.

THE GOOD

2014 Ford Fiesta

The redesign of Ford's popular subcompact comes with an interesting new wrinkle: a 1-liter, 3-cylinder turbocharged version. That's just one more cylinder than a lot of motorcycles. The turbo — Ford calls it EcoBoost — squeezes more power of of engines that are highly fuel-efficient. The styling may be a bit too Euro-hatchback for a lot of Americans, but the trend of smaller engines delivering the same power, performance, and comfort of their larger siblings isn't just a trend a this year's auto show. It's a trend in the entire auto industry.

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October auto sales: It was a good month for just about everybody

Ford And GM Report Large Drops In Monthly Sales

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Ford saw fairly weak year-over-years sales improvements for October but still hung into its number two spot in the ferociously competitive U.S. market.

October U.S. auto sales are in the books, as every carmaker who sells vehicles has now reported.

Some of the notables were Chrysler, with a 10.2 percent increase over last year, its best October since 2007; Volkswagen, with a 20.4 percent surge from last year; and Toyota, whose nearly 16 percent uptick year-over-year shows that the biggest Japanese automaker is poised to regain the market share it lost to General Motors and Ford after the tsunami and earthquake last year.

The real story is how tightly bunched GM, Ford, and Toyota are in terms of U.S. market share. They aren't separated by much more than a point or two: GM has about 18 percent, Ford has 15-and-a-half; and Toyota has about 14. 

That's more than a third of the market right there. The remaining two-thirds is being fought over, at various price levels, by no less than 17 automakers. Okay, you can take Ferrari and Maserati out of the competition — neither marque sells more than 300 cars a month. But other companies are aiming to compete and compete vigorously, if the world's most competitive auto market. 

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