Asian auto makers are moving closer to commanding a 50% stake in the U.S. light-vehicle market as the group closed out 2009 with a 47.9% share, up 2.7 points from 2008.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., Kia Motors Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (Subaru), Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp., collectively held 25.8% of the U.S. market in 1999.

But they moved up fast, hitting 36.6% in 2005 and 41.9% by 2007.

Despite the pump-price spike and credit crisis that triggered 2008’s economic downturn and subsequent new-vehicle sales collapse, Asian car companies recorded their highest share gain of the decade that year. Their 3.3-point jump lifted their claim on the U.S. market to 45.2%.

The majority of the group’s gains over the last decade have come at the expense of domestic manufacturers General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

The domestics saw their hold on the market shrink to 44.8% last year from 69.8% in 1999. European auto makers also have gained share in the U.S. during the last 10 years, albeit at a much slower pace, going from 4.4% in 1999 to 7.3% in 2009.

Not surprisingly, the industry-wide share shift benefited Toyota most. Its cut of the market nearly has doubled since 1999, going from 8.7% that year to 17.0% at the close of 2009.

However, Toyota’s rate of gain has slowed in recent years, with the auto maker accruing just 0.2 points of additional share last year vs. 2008.

Honda saw the second-largest U.S. market share increase over the past 10 years, with a 4.7-point hike between 1999 and 2009, to finish the decade at 11.1%. Hyundai was the third-leading gainer, jumping 4.1 points in the same period to 4.2%.

Hyundai tied with Ford for 2009’s biggest boost, compared with 2008. Each claimed an additional slice of the U.S. pie worth 1.2 share points.

Yet, Ford had the second-highest loss of the past 10 years. Its stake plunged 8.3 points since 1999 to finish the decade at 15.9%, according to Ward’s.

GM suffered most, plummeting to 19.9% last year, from 1999’s 29.6%.

Volkswagen AG, which has ambitions to become the world’s best-selling auto maker, saw its U.S. market share increase slightly from 2.3% in 1999 to 2.8% last year.

At the brand level, Toyota was the biggest winner, growing its share by 7.3 points since 1999 to finish the decade at 14.9%. Ford fell furthest, slipping 6.2 points to 13.6% at the end of 2009.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com