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Toyota beats Ford again, GM, Chrysler sales up

Toyota Motor Corp. sold more vehicles in the U.S. last month than Ford Motor Co., marking the second time ever that the No. 2 domestic automaker was beaten out by its Japanese rival.
2007 Ford F150 pickup trucks
Ford sales of light trucks, such as the F150, were of 13 percent.David Zalubowski / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Toyota Motor Corp. sold more vehicles in the U.S. last month than Ford Motor Co., marking the second time ever that the No. 2 domestic automaker was beaten out by its Japanese rival.

Ford reported Friday that its U.S. auto sales dropped 9.7 percent in November compared with the same period a year ago. Toyota sold 196,695 vehicles in November, a 15.9 percent increase over November 2005, compared with Ford’s 181,111.

General Motors Corp.’s sales rose 6.1 percent, while DaimlerChrysler AG’s were up 4.7 percent.

GM sold 293,558 vehicles last month, the most of any manufacturer. It sold 109,985 cars, a 7.9 percent decline from November 2005, but truck sales rose 16.6 percent to 183,573. The numbers include the European Saab brand.

Toyota’s sales, including its Lexus luxury brand, were boosted by a 17.8 percent increase in light truck sales. Sales of the RAV4 compact sport utility vehicle had their best November ever, up 156.9 percent to 11,425. Toyota’s car sales were up 14.5 percent, to 109,126.

Ford’s light truck sales dropped 13 percent to 119,259, including a 16.1 percent drop in sales of the dominant F-Series pickup, while car sales fell 2.6 percent to 61,852, reflecting lower deliveries to fleet customers.

Ford sales analyst George Pipas, in a conference call with industry analysts and journalists, blamed the company’s monthly sales performance in part on getting a start later in the month on advertising highlighting improvements to its 2007 models and promoting its year-end sales event.

“It was disappointing,” Pipas said. “We missed our own internal sales target for the month.”

But the Dearborn-based company said car sales to individual retail customers were up for the Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans. Ford’s figures include the Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover brands.

Ford’s share of the domestic market has declined from around 26 percent in the early 1990s to 17.6 percent at the end of October, when Toyota’s share was 15.5 percent. In July, Ford sold fewer vehicles in the U.S. than Toyota for the first time, but Ford’s U.S. sales surpassed the Japanese company’s in August through October.

Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis said the company isn’t focused on market share.

“Our ranking within the industry is really driven by actions our competitors take or don’t take,” he said in a phone interview. “Our fundamental approach remains unabated. We supply consumers with the right product at the right time.”

Although sales of large SUVs have softened due to high gas prices, the RAV4 fits a niche of utility combined with fuel economy, Dominicis said.

“It’s still relatively fresh, and it’s more attractive when you get into the more fuel-efficient SUVs, the crossovers vehicles.”

Asked about how the company’s sales results compared with those of other automakers, Pipas said Ford’s focus remains on its North American turnaround effort. Part of Ford’s “Way Forward” restructuring plan, updated in September, is to reduce manufacturing capacity to match lower demand for its products.

“It’s not that important right now in the scheme of things,” he said of sales rankings.

Ford on Friday lowered its North American production estimates 2.5 percent for the current quarter and announced production goals for the first three months of 2007 that were in line with previous estimates.

Ford said it plans to build 620,000 vehicles in October-December period, including 240,000 cars and 380,000 trucks. That’s 15,000 fewer than previously announced.

Ford said the change reflected the temporary suspension of Freestar minivan production at the Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada.

And it said production in the first quarter of 2007 will total 750,000 vehicles, including 240,000 cars and 510,000 trucks. That’s down about 14 percent from production in the first quarter of 2006.

Ford said the goal put it on pace with earlier estimates that production in the first six months of 2007 would be 8 percent to 12 percent lower than the first half of 2006.

GM said its fourth-quarter production forecast remains unchanged at 449,000 cars and 661,000 trucks. The company’s forecast for the first quarter of 2007 is 1.28 million vehicles, down 9 percent from actual production in the first quarter of 2006.

Sales at DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group rose 2.9 percent from November 2005 to 164,556, while Mercedes-Benz sold 22,079 vehicles, its third highest performance and a 21 percent jump from a year ago.

Overall, DaimlerChrysler said U.S. sales were 186,635 in the month. More detailed figures for Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz were to be released later in the day.

Nissan Motor Co.’s sales were down 1.6 percent to 76,015. Car sales rose 11.5 percent to 42,361, including the best November on record for the Altima sedan. But truck sales fell 14.2 percent to 33,654 as sales of the Xterra SUV dropped 31.8 percent.

The auto industry as a whole may look a little better last month because November 2005 was relatively weak. Customers avoided car showrooms a year ago despite easing gas prices and deep discounts amid worries about high heating costs and other factors.

Ford shares fell 13 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $8 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while GM shares rose 11 cents to $29.34. DaimlerChrysler shares were down 44 cents to $57.84 on the NYSE.

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.