Chrysler once again returns to The Big Three

First time since 2006 Detroit has occupied top 3 spots

June 1, 2011

(Getty/Bill Pugliano)
A Chrysler assembly line roles out cars as the company announced the repayment of it's $1.7 billion government loan on May 24th.

For nearly a decade, the auto industry’s Big Three included at least one company that wasn’t from Detroit. Now, Chrysler is back among the three best-selling automakers.

It ranked behind General Motors and Ford in May auto sales. It’s the first time the Detroit Three have been the Big Three since February 2006, according to Edmunds.com, a Web site that offers car-buying advice.  During its worst days, such as its 2009 bankruptcy filing, Chrysler fell as low as fifth in the industry, outsold by Toyota and Honda as well as its Detroit neighbors.

The gain isn’t only because Chrysler’s sales have rebounded, although the company has received an image boost in recent months.

The return of the Big Three is in large part due to weakness by Japanese auto companies. They had a terrible month, in part because of disruptions caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Sales at Toyota dropped 33 percent from a year ago, while Honda was down 22.5 percent and Nissan was down 9 percent. Hyundai and Kia, combined, came within a thousand vehicles of outselling Toyota. Honda failed to put a vehicle on the top-selling list for the first time that anyone can remember.

Last month, eight of the top 10 selling vehicles in the United States were from Detroit automakers, reported Nick Bunkley in The New York Times. That compares with four of 10 a year ago. The country’s best selling car in May, long the Toyota Camry, was the Chevrolet Malibu.

Says Justin Hyde at Jalopnik.com, “And for one month, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler can reclaim the mantle of the “Big Three,” which had until now been stored in a government warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant. It’s expected to return to its resting place within a few months.”