Thursday, December 24, 2009

10 Best-Sellers of 2009 - So Far

It's no secret that 2009 has been a tough year for the auto industry. Through June, sales are down 35.1 percent from last year, and the market is on track to sell fewer than 10 million cars and light trucks, according to auto-industry trade magazine Automotive News (note: all sales data in this article was sourced from Automotive News). That's about 3.2 million fewer vehicles than last year, which was down 2.9 million vehicles from the year before that. Despite the tough market, the top 10 best-selling vehicles are virtually unchanged from 2008, a testament to the appeal of these cars, trucks and sport utes. Like the rest of the market, sales for the top 10 vehicles are down, as you will see in the following slides. But they are still moving, which bodes well for their future salability when the market rebounds. Let's take a look at 2009's best-sellers so far and why they continue to resonate with buyers.

10. Honda CR-V

Total sales for 2009 so far: 78,917
Percentage loss from last year: 24.2

Honda was among the first companies to offer a car-based SUV, now called a crossover, when it introduced the CR-V for the 1997 model year. With 4-cylinder power and reasonable size and weight, the CR-V provided a great way for families to get around without having the stigma of a station wagon or the waste of a heavy, truck-based SUV. That formula still holds for the CR-V, but the vehicle is larger, more efficient and more refined than ever. It's great for small families or young, active singles, and the easy step-in height makes it a fine choice for seniors as well.

Watch Video: 2009 Honda CR-V

Compare the 2009 Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback and Nissan Rogue

9. Ford Fusion

Total sales for 2009 so far: 85,146
Percentage loss from last year: 3.2

The Fusion was reworked but not totally redesigned for 2009, and we think it's one of the best midcycle updates we've seen in quite some time. The car looks better, has a nicer interior and offers several engaging entertainment features. Plus, the available hybrid is one of the best on the market — close to 40 mpg out of a roomy, comfortable midsize sedan is quite an accomplishment. While Fusion sales are down this year, the drop of 3.2 percent is far less than just about any model on the market. That's testament to the effective update of the Fusion and the goodwill Ford seems to be enjoying for not taking government money. If you haven't driven a Ford lately, take a look at the Fusion.

Reviews: 2010 Ford Fusion

8. Dodge Ram

Total sales for 2009 so far: 94,516
Percentage loss from last year: 26.7

Though third in the dog-eat-dog full-size pickup market, the Dodge Ram is the most improved in the class. Redesigned for 2009, the Ram now delivers unsurpassed levels of comfort and refinement. Over the years it has received numerous industry awards, including the North American Truck of the Year, and is the bright spot in a Chrysler Group lineup that is seeing a sales drop of 45.7 percent so far this year. Though sales for the Ram are down by slightly more than 25 percent, they aren't as bad as the 35 to 36 percent losses experienced by Chevrolet and Ford pickups, respectively. Credit this success to Dodge's smooth ride, bold looks, refined interior and innovative features such as the RamBox storage system and under-floor storage bins.

Read: 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 vs. Ford F-150

7. Nissan Altima

Total sales for 2009 so far: 96,428
Percentage loss from last year: 39.0

Chrysler and General Motors would be wise to follow the path Nissan took early this decade when it rebuilt the brand. Focusing on engaging, quality products, Nissan revamped its lineup starting in 2002 with a powerful, roomy and attractive Altima — and the car has only gotten better since. Improved interiors, increasingly powerful engines, an available hybrid and a sporty character make the Altima an appealing alternative to the Accord and Camry. Like the Accord, the Altima also offers a coupe body style for those who want a reliable midsize car in a sleeker package.

Compare the 2009 Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion

6. Honda Civic

Total sales for 2009 so far: 118,459
Percentage loss from last year: 41.8

Last summer's sky-high gas prices benefited the Honda Civic. It was one of the few cars to enjoy increased sales in 2008, up 2.5 percent, in a market that was down 18 percent. The return of affordable gas has meant a greater than average sales tumble for the Civic this year. However, buyers would be wise to reconsider this practical car, since gas prices are once again on the rise. The Civic seems to offer more car than its subcompact competition. A fun driving character, useful interior space, frugal fuel economy (especially in the available hybrid) and top-notch engineering are evident. Buyers can also count on an affordable ownership experience, thanks to exceptional reliability and excellent resale values.

Compare the 2009 Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla

5. Toyota Corolla/Matrix

Total sales for 2009 so far: 121,643
Percentage loss from last year: 37.5

Toyota's Bob Carter says the Corolla sedan has the same base values — quality, dependability and reliability — as the Camry but in a smaller package. It doesn't offer the same silky ride or overall refinement as its bigger sibling, but the Corolla is sure to hold its resale value and do an admirable job of getting frugal buyers where they need to go. The Matrix, which shares its platform and powertrains with the Corolla, comes in a more useful hatchback package. Both cars are safe bets for shoppers who like to spend their money wisely.

Reviews: 2009 Toyota Corolla

Watch Video: 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

4. Honda Accord

Total sales for 2009 so far: 131,043
Percentage loss from last year: 35.9

In the 1980s and '90s, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry redefined the midsize car in America. Quality and reliability were emphasized, efficient 4-cylinder engines emerged, four doors became the norm and back seats grew to be more spacious and useful. The resulting sales success meant the domestic automakers had to follow or get out of the way, and many buyers think the domestics are still playing catch-up. The current Accord boasts the same advantages as the Camry, though with a little less luxury and a bit more sportiness. Rock-solid reliability and outstanding resale value have made the Accord a sure bet for years.

Watch Video: 2009 Honda Accord

3. Chevrolet Silverado

Total sales for 2009 so far: 149,949
Percentage loss from last year: 35.2

The Ford versus Chevy battle for supremacy in the full-size pickup market has been going on for decades, with Ford usually coming out on top. However, if you add in sales of the GMC Sierra, which is essentially the same product as the Silverado, General Motors bests Ford in terms of how many trucks it's moving off dealer lots. The Silverado is appealing as a powerful, capable and comfortable pickup. Recent product updates by Ford and Dodge have garnered more headlines and added unique features that the Silverado lacks, such as Dodge's RamBox and Ford's bed steps. But Chevy trucks are still a big part of the American culture and probably one of the most well-rounded trucks on the market.

Compare the 2009 Chevy Silverado 1500, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram

2. Toyota Camry

Total sales for 2009 so far: 150,242
Percentage loss from last year: 37.4

Pickup trucks and midsize cars traditionally top the best-sellers list. The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling midsize car for seven years, and it still holds that distinction in the first six months of 2009. Toyota Group Vice President and General Manager Bob Carter cites the company's core values of quality, dependability and reliability (QDR) as the reason. "When consumers look at the Camry and evaluate styling, packaging, QDR and value, we've hit the mark," Carter says. We like the Camry for its luxurious ride, capable engines, efficient use of space and, yes, quality, dependability and reliability. High resale value is another reason to buy.

Watch Video: 2009 Toyota Camry

1. Ford F-Series

Total sales for 2009 so far: 179,632
Percentage loss from last year: 36.6

The perennial king of the hill is still on top. The F-Series has been America's best-selling pickup truck for 32 years, and it's not giving up the title despite tough competition from Chevrolet, Toyota and a much-improved Dodge Ram. We like the F-150's balance of capability and comfort. It far outmuscles the competition when it comes to pulling power and payload capacity, yet still offers one of the smoother and more refined rides on the market. While full-size trucks may no longer be the choice for everyday transportation, their utility and hauling capacity will always make them popular with contractors, small businesses and families who need to tow, haul and go off-road.

Watch Video: 2009 Ford F-150

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to and Kelley Blue Book's

In the market for a new car? MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.

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