BY DEE-ANN DURBIN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted on Wednesday, November 2, 2005
DETROIT — General Motors, Ford and Nissan reported big declines Tuesday, while Toyota’s U. S. sales edged up slightly, Honda’s sales rose and DaimlerChrysler’s sales were flat.
With fuel prices high, sport utility vehicles took the biggest hit across all makers. Sales of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Navigator, GMC Yukon, Hummer H 2 and Toyota Land Cruiser were all down 50 percent or more. GM, Ford and Chrysler, the three biggest U. S. automakers, all stopped offering their employee-discount prices in early October.
But the domestic manufacturers’ problems aren’t all attributable to the end of heavy discounts, one analyst said. “Toyota and Honda are killing them in terms of their ability to produce vehicles that people want on time and at a low cost,” said Sean Egan, managing director of Egan-Jones Ratings Co., an independent debt-rating firm in Haverford, Pa. “We consider this a war of attrition with Ford and GM on the losing end.”
General Motors Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, said its U. S. sales fell 22. 7 percent in October from a year earlier, led by a 30. 3 percent decline in sales of trucks and SUVs. GM’s car sales fell 10. 6 percent.
Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of market and industry analysis, said it was the industry’s worst month since 1998. But he said October must be viewed in the context of the summer sales blitz, which was fueled by U. S. automakers’ employee-discount incentives. This year is still on track to be the second or third best in history for U. S. auto sales, Ballew said.
Ford Motor Co. ’s U. S. sales fell 23 percent in October from a year earlier. Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury trucks and sport utility vehicles fell 30 percent, while car sales slipped 3. 7 percent.
“October wasn’t a very good month for anybody,” said George Pipas, Ford’s U. S. sales analysis manager.
Ford said its new Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr midsize sedans were notable exceptions, exceeding Ford’s expectations in their first month in dealerships.
German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG’s U. S.-based Chrysler Group said its car sales rose a strong 37 percent, and the Dodge Stratus sedan had its best October in nearly 10 years. But truck and SUV sales fell 9. 5 percent and Chrysler’s overall sales were flat for the month.
Asian automakers stayed out of the employee-discount fray, but several of them experienced a downturn in October anyway.
Japan’s Nissan Motor Co. said U. S. sales were down 19 percent, including a 23 percent dip in car sales and South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. said sales were down 7. 7 percent in October.
But Toyota Motor Corp. said its U. S. sales rose 5. 2 percent in October, boosted by a 12. 6 percent jump in car sales. Toyota’s truck and SUV sales were down 4 percent for the month. Its hybrid Prius continued to dazzle, with sales up 68 percent over October 2004.
Honda Motor Co. reported an increase of 4 percent, which the company attributed to strong sales of its redesigned Civic sedan