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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Chevrolet Corvette sales showed significant erosion in 2009 and fell to their lowest level in almost 50 years, leading analysts with Edmunds.com's AutoObserver.com to speculate whether this decline means consumers are becoming less interested in sports cars, in general.

While acknowledging the soft economy's impact, analysts with the site say they are curious if Corvette's struggles point to waning interest in the segment.

"Sports cars sales were down 17.8 percent from 2008 while the industry overall was down 21.2 percent.  However, the return of the Chevy Camaro made all the difference for the segment," explained Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.

"Over 60,000 Camaros were sold last year, and many of the buyers are unlikely to have chosen another sports car in its place had it not been on the market," she added.

After ranking No. 3 in sports car sales in 2008 and commanding 6.6 percent of the segment's market share that year, Corvette sales fell 48.3 percent last year and hit their lowest mark since 1961.

Interestingly enough, it wasn't that long ago (2006) that Corvette sales hit 36,518 for the year, which was more than 2.5 times greater than their full-year 2009 sales, according to Edmunds.com.

According to site metrics, the top cross-shopped competitor to the Corvette was the Camaro.

"One high-ranking General Motors official told AutoObserver.com that he was not necessarily surprised by the Corvette's near half-century low sales figure in 2009," officials pointed out.

"He said the Corvette is priced at the more affordable end of the segment, and as such has a higher ratio of aspirational buyers more likely to be affected by the country's economic downturn," they added.

Looking at some other sports cars' sales performance in 2009, Edmunds.com noted that the Porsche Boxter was down 36 percent from 2008, while the Porsche 911 saw a 17.8-percent year-over-year softening. Also showing a particularly heavy decline was the Porsche Cayman, whose sales fell 44 percent.

At Audi, sales of the TT, whose design is relatively new, were 1,935, a 56.9-percent drop. The Audi R8 — which was introduced in 2008 and lauded for its affordability — saw a 22.3-percent sales decline.

Mercedes-Benz's SLK sales were 2,566, a 48.1-percent drop. SL sales fell 26.3 percent.

Finally, the Dodge Viper — a model Chrysler said it would quit making sometime this year — sold only 482 units, a 58.9-percent softening from the prior year.