Toyota sales climb as GM, Ford decline

November 02, 2005|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

Toyota Motor Corp. reported an increase in U.S. auto sales in October as General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. posted declines, accelerating the Japanese company's push to become the world's largest carmaker.

Toyota, the world's No. 2 automaker by sales behind GM, said yesterday that U.S. consumers bought 1.3 percent more of its cars and trucks in October compared with a year earlier. GM said its U.S. sales fell 22.7 percent in October from a year ago. Ford reported sales down 23 percent.

Total U.S. auto sales fell 14 percent, hitting their lowest annualized rate in seven years. Asian automakers' share of U.S. sales rose to a record.

GM, Ford and Chrysler, the three biggest U.S. automakers, all stopped offering employee-discount prices in early October. The deals had helped GM in June post its biggest sales month in 18 years and allowed Ford to snap a streak of 28 months of falling U.S. market share. The discounts began to lose their effectiveness in September.

"Any time you end incentives that have been as significant as these have been, it's going to be a shock to the market," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. Toyota relies less on incentives than its U.S. rivals.

Industrywide U.S. sales of cars and light trucks in October fell to 1.15 million, or 14.75 million on an annualized basis, the lowest for any month since 1998. Toyota sold 173,086 Lexus and Toyota brand vehicles, up from 170,815 a year earlier. GM's sales in October fell to 253,547 from 342,197.

Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker, said its October U.S. sales of cars and trucks dropped to 199,847 from 268,474. DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth-largest automaker, said sales of its Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz vehicles declined 2.8 percent to 183,163.

Honda Motor Co., the world's second-biggest automaker by market value, said U.S. sales increased 0.4 percent to 110,895 units in October, led by its Civic passenger car. Nissan Motor Co.'s sales declined 17 percent to 72,279, said Jed Connelly, the company's U.S. sales chief.

Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, is closing the gap with GM. In July, the Japanese automaker said its global sales, including affiliates Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd., will increase to 8.16 million this year. GM's worldwide sales rose 4.3 percent to 8.99 million last year.

In 2000, GM sold 8.6 million cars and trucks around the world, compared with Toyota's 5.8 million.

"It's a product thermo-nuclear war out there," Jim Press, Toyota's U.S. sales chief, said in an interview. "We work for our customers, we build for our customers, and I think they recognize that."

GM's results were "a bit below our expectations," said Paul Ballew, the Detroit-based automaker's chief sales analyst.

"It was a combination of record sales during the summer sell-down season, the hurricanes in the Gulf, a spike in gas prices," Ballew said on a conference call with analysts and reporters. "It was a tough month, but I don't want to overreact to one month's results."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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