- The Washington Times - Friday, December 1, 2006

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota Motor Corp. sold more vehicles in the United States 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 yesterday 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, the world’s largest automaker, sold 293,558 vehicles in the United States 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.

But the Dearborn, Mich.-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. GM’s market share was 24.4 percent at the end of October.

In July, Ford sold fewer vehicles in the United States than Toyota for the first time, but Ford’s U.S. sales surpassed the Japanese company’s in August through October.

Ford yesterday 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 the 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.

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