Toyota Continues to Incite Fear on Detroits Big Three

By: Evander Klum

Last May, Toyota Motor Corporation Japan's biggest automaker has increased its sales by 14 percent outselling again Ford Motor Co. in its home market for the third time in seven months. The increase has move Toyota a step closer to passing Ford as the No. 2 seller of vehicles in the US. Ford maker of high quality failed to revive its plunging truck sales while cutting back on low margin car sales to rental companies. General Motors on the other hand the biggest US automaker had a surprising 9.6 percent increase.

According to Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with Global Insight Incorporated in Lexington, Massachusetts, ``we're going to continue to see Ford struggle as they go through their transition period. We're going to continue to see Toyota pushing forward.''

The gains obtained by every major automaker except for Ford has helped in lifting the total US industry sales by 5 percent to as high as 1.56 million comprising of cars and light trucks according to the data compiled by Bloomberg. Asia automakers boosted their share of market by 1.2 points to 41.4 percent.

DaimlerChrysler AG, which last month has agreed to sell its US Chrysler unit after nine years of ownership, has posted its second consecutive monthly advance. The Chrysler Group has increased by 4.3 percent attributed to its redesigned Jeep Wrangler and new Dodge Nitro.

Toyota for its part was able to sell 269,023 cars and light trucks last May, a record that month fired up by a tripling of sales for the Prius gasoline-electric hybrid car. The Prius was able to sell 20,000 units in a single month for the first time to become the ninth-best selling vehicle in the US. Ford's 6.8 percent decline marked its seventh consecutive monthly fall.

Until May, the US industry has increased only once and that was in the month of March which is attributed to the unceasing increase in fuel prices and the declining homes sales that kept buyers away from showrooms. The average price of a gallon of gasoline has reached an all-time high of $3.23 last May that is according to the American Automobile Association.

The US market share for GM, Ford, and Chrysler has slipped by one percentage point to 51.9 percent according to the data presented by the American Automobile Association. Ford's sales to rental car-companies fell 24 percent last May which is still part of the 14 percent decline in the overall sales to business fleets explained by George Pipas, Ford's Chief Sales Analyst in an interview. Sales to retail customers also fell by 3 percent he added.

Ford's total sales decline to 259,470 cars and trucks affected by the 12 percent slide in sales of the F-Series pickup truck this is the seventh consecutive monthly decrease for the trucks. Sales of the F-Series, the nation's best-selling vehicle have fallen by 13 percent this year.

The Fusion mid-sized sedan has also slipped by 4.4 percent while the Explorer sport-utility vehicle fell by 17 percent.

A Year Difference

Amazingly Ford was able to lead over Toyota in terms of sales this year through May by 39,358 vehicles basing on the data presented by Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. A year ago, Ford also led over Toyota by 274,371 vehicles.

GM's Chevrolet Silverado large pickup outsold the F-Series pickup for the second time this year. And prior to February results, the Silverado has also bested the F-Series last June 2005. GM's light truck sales has increased by 5.4 percent fired up by the gain in pickup sales and the addition of the new GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook car-based SUVs. Car sales have also increased by 16 percent led by the Chevrolet Impala and Pontiac Grand Prix.

General Motors is also hoping to increase its North American production by 2 percent in the third quarter.

"Successful Launches"

Erich Merkle, an auto analyst at IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ``We are seeing some successful launches from GM -- the GMC Acadia, the Saturn Outlook, and one just hitting the showrooms, the Buick Enclave. It has been a long time, but Detroit is trying to get a product mix that reflects what the market is looking for."

DaimlerChrysler sales have increased by 3.9 percent. Meanwhile shoppers are still waiting for the outcome of the DaimlerChrysler's negotiations. According to Charlie Hughes, managing partner of Brand Rules LLC of Newport Beach, California,"it's a good time to buy a Chrysler."

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