updated 1/17/2007 9:59:35 AM ET 2007-01-17T14:59:35

General Motors Corp. on Wednesday said it sold 9.09 million cars and trucks worldwide in 2006, a nearly 1 percent decline from 2005, as sales in the U.S. faltered.

The world's largest automaker sold 9.17 million vehicles in 2005.

Its biggest rival, Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan, has said that it expects final totals to show it sold 9.04 million vehicles in 2006.

"Being the largest car company in the world can't be a focus, it has to be a byproduct of giving people in each market the vehicles they really want. GM enjoys that position today," John Middlebrook, GM's vice president for global sales, said in a news release.

GM, which is struggling with lagging sales and a corporate restructuring, attributed the decline in 2006 sales in part to planned cuts of 75,000 vehicles in daily rental fleet sales. Meanwhile, sales of Chevrolet-brand vehicles in the U.S. slowed to 4.3 million in 2006 versus 4.37 million a year ago.

GM in 2006 sold more cars and trucks overseas than it did at home. GM said a preliminary count of its non-U.S. sales last year totaled 4.97 million vehicles, or 55 percent of the worldwide total. That is up about 7 percent from 2005. G.M. earlier reported U.S. sales of 4.12 million in 2006, down about 9 percent from the previous year.

Sales grew 18 percent in GM's Asia-Pacific market and 17 percent in its Latin America, Africa and Middle East region.

The company is facing fierce competition from foreign rivals. Last month, Toyota set a target to build 9.42 million vehicles in 2007.

GM hasn't disclosed 2007 production estimates, but Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner has said the company has capacity to produce more than 9.42 million vehicles worldwide.

"GM had some notable sales successes as we continued to expand in key growth markets around the world in 2006," particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and the region that includes Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, Middlebrook said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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