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CNBC's Schacknow: Toyota Tells Two Stories

Friday, 1 Jun 2007 | 5:12 PM ET

Crunch Those Numbers
If I were to write a job description for the Breaking News desk producer, it would have to include this phrase: “Must love numbers.”

You have to love them, because not only do they come at you in droves, you actually have to use some interpretive skills to add some value. That certainly applied today, when the monthly auto sales figures came out.

One number had immediate impact: Toyota’s total U.S. sales number for May.

Toyota vs. the Big 3
Top-selling automaker Toyota is now going after the toughest customer of all: the American truck buyer. Phil LeBeau reports.

Toyota sold 269,023 cars and trucks during the month, a 9.7% increase. But there was a story beyond that which might have been missed -- unless one thought to look elsewhere on the magic automotive spreadsheet, and notice that Toyota outsold both Ford and Chrysler in the U.S. market.

Toyota’s performance versus Ford has been especially interesting to industry watchers, as the two battle for the honor of being the second-largest U.S. automaker. Toyota beat out its American rival in monthly U.S. sales twice last year, again in January this year, and now for May. It’s widely expected that Toyota will permanently pass Ford at some point soon, making this a stat to watch closely when it comes out each month.

Maybe I’ll rig the spreadsheet to sound a bell if that happens. Or change colors. Or perhaps I should just get a life.

Leave It To Steve
Our senior economics reporter, Steve Liesman, is a world-renowned number cruncher, but he outdid himself today.

In noting that today is the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ classic "Sgt. Pepper" album, Steve pointed out that since the opening verse is “It was 20 years ago today," it was actually 60 years ago that Sgt. Pepper told the band to play.

I wish I’d thought of it first!