updated 9/1/2006 4:31:03 PM ET 2006-09-01T20:31:03

Toyota reported a 17 percent rise in its U.S. sales in August, while GM sales increased 3.9 percent from a year ago as the companies said buyers looked to more fuel-efficient offerings. But Ford’s sales dropped 11.6 percent and sales by Honda and DaimlerChrysler each fell 3.2 percent.

Ford outsold Toyota in August after its U.S. sales trailed the Japanese automaker in July for the first month ever.

Toyota Motor Corp. said gas-conscious consumers made last month its best-ever August selling period in the United States. It sold 240,178 vehicles in August, up from 205,362 in the same month a year ago.

Sales of Toyota and Lexus cars rose 19.9 percent to 144,144 from 120,198, while light truck sales rose 12.8 percent to 96,034 from 85,164.

“We are grateful to have the fuel-efficient models today’s market demands,” said Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota’s U.S. division. “But it’s the strength of our dealer network which is proving increasingly central to our growth.”

General Motors Corp. sold 156,723 passenger cars, up 3.9 percent from 150,900 the same month a year ago. And its truck sales rose 4 percent to 206,798 from 198,906. But GM also said it expects about a 12 percent decrease in North American production during the fourth quarter. GM’s August sales included Saab models.

“This was one of the stronger retail months of 2006, with our performance led by such launch vehicles as the Pontiac Torrent and G6, Saturn Sky, Chevrolet Cobalt, Impala and Buick Lucerne,” said Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of vehicle sales for North America. “Importantly, we’re capitalizing on the sale of fuel-efficient cars and trucks.”

GM said that while its car sales were up, it also showed strength in sport utility vehicles and trucks. But part of the reason for GM’s sales increase was because its employee pricing for all promotion ended in August 2005 and the company’s sales slumped.

Paul Ballew, executive director of global market and industry analysis for GM, said sales of small SUVs were up 18 percent in August, while full-sized SUVs rose 11 percent. Full-sized pickups, GM’s largest-selling vehicles, were up 21 percent, he said.

In the all-important full-sized pickup category, Ballew said the industry is headed back toward a more normal sales volume for the rest of the year.

“We feel like things have stabilized a bit,” he said in a conference call.

But there is some uncertainty even though gasoline prices have subsided a bit from $3 per gallon levels.

GM is making a transition into a new series of pickup trucks in the fall, and Toyota also plans a new full-sized pickup.

But Ford Motor Co.’s sales fell as buyers continued to shift away from its trucks and SUVs. Sales of Ford SUVs and trucks, which the automaker has depended on for most of its revenue, fell 20.8 percent compared with August 2005, but car sales grew by 8.5 percent.

The company said the increased car sales were fueled by higher demand for its new mid-sized sedans including the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr.

Chrysler Group, which includes the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, had sales of 179,165, down 4.2 percent from 187,085 vehicles last year. It sold 34,896 cars, down 15.1 percent to 41,100 from a year ago, and 144,269 trucks, down 1.2 percent from 145,985 in the same month in 2005.

Also Friday, Chrysler Group said it was bringing back zero-percent financing for 72 months on most 2006 models in an effort to clear lots for 2007 cars and trucks. The program runs through Oct. 2.

Ford said it sold 253,976 cars and light trucks in August, down from 287,235 in August of last year, when the company set sales records by offering employee price discounts for everyone. The figures include Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands as well as its luxury group that includes Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Ford’s light truck sales totaled 156,175 last month, down from 197,109 in the same month of 2005, but car sales rose to 97,801 last month from 90,126 a year ago.

Sales of the F-Series truck, America’s most popular vehicle, dropped 15 percent in August when compared with August of 2005, which the company said was a record month.

Ford sold 76,804 of the trucks, compared with 90,388 in August of last year. Still, August was the second-best sales month for the F-Series this year, the company said.

The company pointed to its mid-sized car sales as a bright spot, saying that it sold 22,863 of them last month, a record number for the vehicles, which were introduced last year.

“We haven’t found the top yet when it comes to these three midsized sedans. Our experience is that demand will continue to grow as we improve the value of the 2007 models,” with added safety features and optional all-wheel-drive, said George Pipas, Ford’s U.S. sales analysis manager.

He predicted continued slumping sales for the company’s full-sized SUVs, but improving numbers for the F-Series pickups later in the year.

Ford confirmed Friday that it was discontinuing production of the Mercury Monterey minivan, and that the future of the Ford Freestar was in doubt. The Freestar will continue in production through the 2007 model year “then after that we’ll see what happens,” Pipas said in a conference call with analysts and reporters.

Neither van has been a great seller. In August, Monterey sales were down 46.1 percent from the same month last year, while Freestar sales were off 29.7 percent.

Pipas predicted that this year, minivan sales will dip below 1 million vehicles for the first time since 1992. The segment peaked with 1.4 million vans sold in 2000.

Honda Motor Co. reported record sales of its light trucks, a 14.8 percent increase to 69,385 from 60,451, but its car sales fell 14.5 percent to 81,868 from 95,722. Overall, including the Acura brand, Honda sold 151,253 vehicles for the month compared with 156,173 in August 2005.

“Honda has successfully achieved year-over-year increases for more than a decade,” said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. “The arrival of the all-new 2007 CR-V as well as the Civic Si sedan should allow us to continue our strong year-to-date momentum.”

DaimlerChrysler said Mercedes-Benz USA reported its highest August sales on record with 20,602 new vehicles sold, an increase of 6.9 percent over last August’s sales of 19,267.

Nissan North America Inc. said U.S. auto sales fell as declining sales of its trucks and Infiniti-branded vehicles offset car sales growth. Sales were down 2.7 percent to 89,848 units from 92,365 in August a year ago.

Mazda North American Operations Inc. said August U.S. sales rose modestly on the strength of its all-new CX-7 crossover. Mazda said total August U.S. sales rose 0.8 percent to 22,311 vehicles from 22,135 in the year-ago month.

Also Friday, Porsche Cars North America Inc., the importer and distributor of Porsche sports cars and Cayenne SUVs in the U.S. and Canada, said its sales fell 14.1 percent in August to 2,397 units from 2,735 last year.

The Associated Press reports unadjusted figures, calculating the percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report percentages that are adjusted for the number of sales days in a month.

Ford shares fell 10 cents to close at $8.27 on the New York Stock Exchange, while DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. shares rose 41 cents to $53.19 and GM shares increased $1.09 to $30.27. Toyota’s U.S. shares rose 14 cents to close at $108.48 on the NYSE.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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