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Automakers report slow U.S. sales in April

U.S. auto sales were so slow in April that even Toyota reported a decrease from the same month last year. General Motors and Ford also reported decreases in U.S. sales, while Chrysler had a small increase.
2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Chrysler was a rare bright spot in a dour April for U.S. automobile sales, with its Jeep brand reporting a sales gain of 29 percent, due largely to sales of its Wrangler and Compass models.David Zalubowski / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. auto sales were so slow in April that even Toyota reported a decrease from the same month last year. General Motors and Ford also reported decreases in U.S. sales, while Chrysler had a small increase.

Most analysts had expected that U.S. auto sales, which automakers reported Tuesday afternoon, would be down, due largely to the slumping housing market, rising consumer debt and no pent-up demand for vehicles.

Another factor: Gasoline prices are at or near $3 per gallon, and many consumers were expected to delay vehicle purchases until they find out what will happen to gas prices during the upcoming summer driving season.

The decline at Toyota Motor Corp. is counter to a long trend of rising sales, sometimes in rising to double digits.

Toyota sales — which include the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands — dropped 4.4 percent to 210,457 last month from 219,965 in April 2006, the company said Tuesday.

The Japanese automaker has seen double-digit increases in recent months and it seemed like the rising sales would never end. In March, for example, the company’s sales jumped 11.7 percent.

Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, reported its U.S. sales fell 12.9 percent in April versus a year ago due largely to slumping car sales.

Ford sold a total of 227,619 light vehicles last month, down from the 261,381 the company sold in April 2006. Car sales were off 23.6 percent, while truck sales were down 5.7 percent, the company said.

General Motors Corp. also said sales were poor, down 9.5 percent from April of last year, while DaimlerChrysler AG sales were up 1.2 percent.

GM sold 307,554 light vehicles in April, down from 339,796 in the same month last year.

DaimlerChrysler’s overall sales increased to 213,999 from 211,365, due to an increase at its Chrysler Group. Chrysler sales rose by 1.6 percent from 190,095 in April of last year to 193,104 last month. Mercedes sales were down 1.8 percent to 20,895 from 21,270.

Chrysler said it had a strong retail month, with sales at its Jeep brand up 29 percent due largely to sales of the Wrangler and Compass models.

At Ford, even the company’s Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan mid-sized cars, which had been selling well in previous months, saw a decline, with Fusion sales off 2.5 percent and Milan sales down 5.4 percent.

Ford’s F-series pickup trucks, traditionally the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., were down 12.4 percent for the month.

“With April behind us, we remain focused on getting the word out about the strength of our new products, and our marketing offensive is moving into high gear,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in a statement.

Nearly 60 percent of Ford’s car decline was due to cancellation of the Taurus sedan, which ceased production late last year. The company sold 14,668 Tauruses in April 2006, mostly to fleet buyers. The company plans to rename its Five Hundred sedan the Taurus for the 2008 model year.

Ford pointed to the success of its new products, namely the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover vehicles and the Ford Expedition large sport utility vehicle, as signs that it is selling vehicles people want to buy.

Expedition sales were up 27 percent for the month of April, while Ford sold 9,134 new Edges and 2,901 MKXs in April.

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 adjusted for sales days, which last month was 24 and in April 2006 was 26.