GM's sales in Dec. rose 6.5%

Ford's dipped 1.4%

The industry sold record 17 million cars and trucks in 1999

Auto industry

January 06, 2000|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp.'s sales of North American-built cars and light trucks rose 6.5 percent in December, capping the industry's record year, but Ford Motor Co.'s sales fell 1.4 percent as discounts did little to stop the market share gains of Asian and European rivals.

For the year, GM's total sales including imports and heavy trucks rose 9 percent, while Ford's climbed 6.1 percent to break a 21-year-old record.

DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. reported annual records Tuesday.

Last year "went out on a high note, which means 2000 is off to a great start," said David Garrity, an analyst with Dresdner Kleinwort Benson.

1986 record broken

The industry sold an estimated 17 million cars and light trucks last year, smashing the record of 16.03 million set in 1986. The demand was spurred by jobless rates at a 29-year low, rising consumer wealth fed by stock gains and a barrage of discounts as U.S. makers tried to protect dwindling market share.

DaimlerChrysler said its December sales excluding Mercedes-Benz rose 0.7 percent. Honda's sales rose 6.2 percent. Toyota's December sales fell 12 percent from a year earlier, when the fourth-biggest automaker in the United States pushed hard to assure that its Camry model would top Honda's Accord and Ford's Taurus as the best-selling car for 1998.

GM sold 420,952 North American-built cars and trucks, exceeding analysts' estimates of a 1.9 percent increase as employee discounts helped the world's largest automaker rebound from No- vember, when it posted its lowest market share in decades. Its car sales fell 6.8 percent to 194,599, and sales of minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickups rose 22 percent to 226,353. Total sales including imports and heavy trucks rose 6.3 percent for the month and 9 percent for all of 1999.

The company had its best month of full-size pickup sales in more than 20 years as combined sales of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra rose 30 percent from December 1998. It also reported December records for several sport utilities, including the Chevy Suburban, Blazer, Tracker and Cadillac Escalade.

Car sales were hurt by lower fleet deliveries last month, and GM posted declines at its Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Pontiac divisions.

Saturn sales rose 14 percent, helped by its all-new LS midsize car, while Chevrolet sales rose 7.2 percent, aided by a 71 percent gain in Metro sales.

Ford sold 315,744 North American-built cars and trucks in December. Total truck sales fell 5.3 percent while total car sales climbed 18 percent.

Ford's December increase in auto sales was driven by its two European luxury brands, Jaguar and Volvo. Jaguar, which Ford acquired in 1989, doubled its sales for the month to 4,946. Volvo's rose 42 percent to 12,162 on the strength of its new S80 and S40 models.

Ford SUV sales drop

Sales of Ford's full-size sport utility vehicles, the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, fell 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively. The new, jumbo Excursion sport utility helped compensate for those declines with sales of 4,804.

On the car side, the new Focus is selling better than the Escort model it replaced. Sales of the Contour, which is being phased out, rose 48 percent, as dealers offered bargains to clear out Contour inventories.

GM shares were unchanged yesterday at $71.625. Ford shares gained 18.75 cents to $50.8125.

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