Maybe Honda (NYSE:HMC) can market its cars as four-wheeled motorcycles. After all, the two-wheeled version of its vehicles were the only bright spot in the Japanese automaker's third quarter, during which it sold 5.6% more bikes than a year ago.

Honda also has one thing going for it that neither Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) nor Toyota (NYSE:TM) can boast: It'll turn a profit for the full fiscal year ending in March, though no thanks go to the automotive side of the business for the achievement.

The Japanese automaker reported 940,000 of its autos sold worldwide last year, a 5.1% decline, with business as uneven as a pothole-filled road. Internationally, Honda's car and truck sales dropped 4.8% to 805,000 units from the year-ago period, with sales plummeting 35% in December in the U.S. alone. That was a greater drop than the higher sales in Asia (primarily Thailand) and Brazil could offset. At home in Japan, sales were down 6.9%.

In contrast, motorcycle sales were up year over year, though that also had nothing to do with North America or Japan, where unit sales were down 26.5% and 18.5%, respectively. Sales spiked higher in Brazil, India, and Vietnam. If you look at Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), you'll see that's a singular achievement, since the hog-maker reported it's running on fumes and will be laying off 1,100 employees over the next two years.

The Japanese car market looks almost as broken as that of the United States. Nissan will record its first operating loss in its 80-year history come March, and Toyota, which recently had the crowning achievement of surpassing General Motors (NYSE:GM) as the world's largest car seller, is rumored to be anticipating a $4.5 billion operating loss when it reports full-year results. Sales at GM, Chrysler, and Ford (NYSE:F) dropped by 30% to 50% in each of the months comprising the fourth quarter, a depressing denouement to a year that was the worst for the U.S. automakers in decades. The Japanese automakers weren't faring much better by year's end, however.

While Honda will report a profit, earnings still dropped by nearly 90% in the third quarter; no company can remain buoyant for too long with a successive string of such losses. Perhaps if Nissan just removed two wheels from all its cars, it'd be able to resuscitate sales. I mean, the wheels have already come off the industry -- the automakers may as well make the best of it.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.