Sept. Sales: Toyota Hits a Grand Slam


Ford Motor Co. sales showed life in September as gasoline prices began to stabilize, but the big news was the strong showing by Toyota Motor Corp., which reported a 20-percent sales gain last month.Toyota has claimed the number-three spot in the U.S. this year and now has outpaced DaimlerChrysler AG in sales for six consecutive months. If Chrysler loses its hold, it will mark the first time that a non-American company has claimed the third spot in sales.

General Motors reported a 3.1-percent drop in sales last month while DaimlerChrysler AG reported mixed results as Mercedes-Benz sales rose 13 percent but the Chrysler Group’s dropped four percent. A strong surprisingly showing by the minivan, which was buoyed by zero-percent financing, helped Chrysler truck sales while its car sales plunged 26.6 percent.

Ford’s increase was propelled by strong car sales, which rose 26.2 percent, while its truck sales fell 5.5 percent.

“While crossovers, hybrids, and small cars continue to show strength, our SUVs and full-size trucks also posted solid gains,” Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, said in a statement. “It’s the breadth of our lineup that enables us to satisfy today’s buyers.”

Honda Motor Co. reported a sales decrease of 4.1 percent with cars falling 13 percent, while Nissan reported its sales fell 9 percent. Other Japanese brands such as Suzuki, Mitsubishi, and Subaru all reported strong gains last month.

BMW reported a drop in sales for September but Audi reported a gain, while Kia reported only a modest gain. Hyundai, which had surged earlier this year, reported its sales had dropped in September in the aftermath of labor trouble in South Korea.

Paul Ballew, GM’s sales analyst, said GM was satisfied with its September sales results, which were basically in line with expectations. The company’s small vehicles did exceptionally well and were actually in short supply while it appeared that truck sales were beginning to stabilize last month as gas prices eased. Truck sales had dropped most of they year.

"Our sales results in September were very solid," said GM sales analyst Paul Ballew. "The decline was driven by a 26-percent planned reduction in rental sales," he added.

Ford said demand for its mid-size cars — the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln MKZ — and for the Mustang remained strong. The F-Series pickup, and Explorer and Expedition sport-utility vehicles all showed higher sales compared with September 2005. Mustang sales were up 31 percent, the company said.

"You can still see a consumer shift towards passenger cars, but our truck sales weren't so negative as they've been in recent months," said Ford sales analyst George Pipas. "Obviously, we did have some tough comparisons this summer on the truck side — full-size pickups and sport-utility vehicles. Now the tough comparisons are pretty much behind us."

Both Ford and Chrysler also indicated that they planned to use incentives to help sell off their remaining inventories of ‘06 models. Chrysler will continue to use zero-percent financing, according to Chrysler’s vice president of sales strategy.

Meanwhile, Ford said it is launching a new "Truck Month" incentive campaign that offers lower-rate financing deals on many of its vehicle lines in order to maintain its position in the profitable truck market and spur overall sales.

"We're already seeing great results for our 2006-model sell-down," Ford sales executive Al Giombetti said.

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