Toyota Tops GM

July 23, 2008

To some, it might seem almost anticlimactic. Maybe it should be to all of us. But surprise or not, General Motors, after suffering a 5 percent dip in its global volume, saw its sales for the first half of 2008 fall behind those of its archrival, Toyota Motor Co.

The two have been locked in a heated race for the last two years - GM beat out Toyota in 2007 by just 3,100 sales - but this year's sharp downturn in the U.S. market, particularly in the light truck segment, finally tipped the scales in favor of the Japanese giant.

From January through June, Toyota moved 4.8 million cars, trucks, and crossovers worldwide, compared with 4.54 million for the troubled U.S. maker - which only last week announced the latest in a series of sharp cutbacks that includes still more reductions in pickup and SUV production.

It wasn't all bad for GM. The automaker posted a strong 10 percent growth in overseas sales. Two of its traditionally domestic brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac, both did well abroad, posting double-digit gains.

But there's that troubled U.S. market, where overall industry sales plunged, last month, to their lowest levels in more than a decade, coming in at an anemic, annualized rate of 13.6 million, compared with the 17-million-plus levels of the early part of this decade.

And there are few signs things are going to get better anytime soon, lamented GM's chief sales analyst, Mike DiGiovanni. "Early indications" for July, he warned, suggest "it's going to be another challenging month."

GM isn't the only one suffering, however. Even Toyota saw a 7 percent decline in U.S. sales during the first half of this year, but it more than made up for that elsewhere, especially in emerging markets like China.

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