More stories related to 2005 NAIAS Calendar year 2005 will bring 46 major redesigns or entirely new light vehicles to the U.S. market, compared with an average annual rate of 35 over the past seven years.

More than half of the market debuts are expected in the fourth quarter. However, there is a good chance some will be pulled ahead into September, while others could be delayed until 2006.

Some notable vehicles are coming early in 2005, including the new Dodge Charger, Hummer H3, Lincoln Mark LT and Saab 9-7X, as well as redesigns to the Kia Sportage, Nissan Xterra, Toyota Avalon and Volkswagen Jetta.

Over the last seven years, about 41% of new/redesigned vehicles have gone on sale in the fourth quarter, with the first and third quarters both at close to 21% and the second quarter garnering 17% of the new launches.(See related data: Calendar Year U.S. New and Redesigned Vehicles)

The exceptions were 1999, when several manufacturers pulled some intros into the third quarter from the fourth quarter, and in 2001 when General Motors Corp. started selling redesigned versions of its large and midsize SUVs early in the year. Thus, fourth-quarter intros accounted for 32.4% and 34.4% in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

Hummer H3 one of many new vehicles coming in 2005.

One company that spaces out intros more evenly is Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. Its fourth-quarter average of 38.5% is relatively close to the industry average, but 50% of the debuts typically occur during the first half of the year, compared with about 38% for the industry.

(See related data: Currently Planned U.S. Market New Vehicle Debuts)

With 19 new vehicles overall coming in 2005 that do not directly replace any models from the prior year, there will be a net gain of four vehicle lines available to buyers by the end of 2005 – growing to 292 from 288 at the end of 2004.

Of the new models coming, eight will be cross/utility vehicles (including the Lexus RX 400h, a hybrid-electric version of the RX 330). Additionally, four will be pickup trucks – including American Honda Motor Co. Inc.’s first foray into the segment with the Ridgeline – and three are SUVs, for a total 15 trucks.

Cars are not being forgotten, even though overall demand for them continues to decline.

Besides the Charger, there will be two new premium-brand cars (the Audi A3 and Lincoln Zephyr), as well as the Pontiac Solstice 2-door roadster. Ford Motor Co. in the fourth quarter will roll out the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, which essentially replace the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable for the retail market. (Taurus will remain in the lineup indefinitely for sales to rental fleets.)

Additionally, redesigns are on tap for the Dodge Neon, Honda Civic and Jetta small cars. Among larger cars, Chevrolet will thoroughly restyle the Impala and Monte Carlo, Hyundai replaces the Sonata with a domestically produced version, and GM replaces the aged Buick LeSabre with the Lucerne.

Overall, it likely will only get harder to make money selling cars.

hstoddard@primediabusiness.com