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3.2 million fewer new cars bought last year

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More than 3.2 million fewer new cars were bought in North America in 2009, according to JATO Dynamics, a firm that tracks vehicle trends.

"Across the region, those brands weathering the storm best were lower volume imported marques, with Hyundai (up 11.6%) and Kia (up 11.3%) increasing sales volumes," say JATO officials. "Other winners were Subaru (up 15%) and Audi, which achieved 5.4% growth.

"By contrast, the three biggest brands -- Ford, Toyota and Chevrolet -- ended the year 13.8%, 18.2% and 25.8% down, respectively."

According to David Di Girolamo, head of JATO Consult, the recession "and the simultaneous, sudden shift to smaller, more economical vehicles has been felt keenly across North America. This has created even more of an opportunity for those lower volume, importing manufacturers who already offer such vehicles and puts even more pressure on the big, domestic automakers."

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