Hyundai And Honda: Most Recession-Proof Automakers?

April 14, 2010
2010 Honda Accord Crosstour

2010 Honda Accord Crosstour

2010 Hyundai Genesis

2010 Hyundai Genesis

Auto sales rise and fall with the economy, right? Take just a quick look at what's happened to the auto market over the years, match it up with the general ups and downs of the economy—through major indicators like the stock market and unemployment—and you end up with a pretty good correlation.

Except for Hyundai. In the U.S. market, Hyundai's sales don't show much correlation to the economy at all.

In a new study, the pricing intelligence firm TrueCar looked for the correlation between new-vehicle sales and major macroeconomic indicators including the Dow Jones Index, housing starts, unemployment, and consumer confidence.

Hyundai sales remained strong and showed little correlation to major indicators of boom or bust. Honda also did well in demonstrating that it was one of the least prone to following the ebbs and flows of the economy.

“The real revelation was the emergence of Hyundai as an ‘economy proof’ manufacturer—with the lowest percentage correlation in virtually every category amongst all major manufacturers,” said Jesse Toprak, the firm's VP of industry trends.

Of course, during this time, Hyundai was grabbing market share from other automakers. The brand's market share in the U.S. is nearly one percent higher than it was a year ago. And while Honda has been gaining market share for much of the recession, its market share in March was down slightly versus the previous month and last year—just as some are saying that many signs point to recovery.

For the study, TrueCar looked at data going back to January 2007, finding that overall new-vehicle sales were strongly correlated to housing starts (82 percent), the Dow Jones Index (81 percent), the Consumer Confidence Index (76 percent) and, inversely, to the unemployment rate (75 percent).

Looking at all of these economic indicators, TrueCar found that General Motors and Chrysler were highly dependent on a strong economy. The two automakers ranked in the top two spots for correlation to all four primary economic indicators.

Below those two automakers, the results are more mixed. Mercedes-Benz came in third and Porsche fourth when looking at sales relative to the Dow Jones Index—perhaps confirming these brands' status-symbol image for investors and financial-industry executives. Porsche took third place when looking at sales relative to housing starts and the unemployment rate, though.

Among luxury automakers, BMW proved to be the most recession-proof, although it did prove to be more dependent than Mercedes-Benz, along with many other brands, with respect to unemployment.

Since TrueCar looked at auto manufacturers rather than brands, the comparisons don't give much insight as to how many other luxury brands, including Acura, Lexus, Infiniti, Cadillac, and Lincoln, perform relative to their companion mainstream brands.


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