Toyota Unseats Ford for No. 2 Spot; GM Slips
Toyota Motor overtook Ford Motor to become the No. 2 automaker by U.S. sales in 2007, using new products and relentless strategy to break Ford's 75-year lock on the position.
Toyota sold 48,226 more cars and trucks than Ford, according to sales figures released Thursday.
Toyota's sales were up 3 percent for the year, buoyed by new products like the Toyota Tundra pickup, which saw sales jump 57 percent.
Ford's sales fell 12 percent, ending with a whimper a year that is expected to be the worst for the auto industry since 1998 as consumers fretted over high gas prices and the economy.
Ford corporate historian Bob Kreipke said it was the first time since 1931 that Ford wasn't second behind General Motors.
Meanwhile, General Motors said Thursday its U.S vehicle sales fell 5.2 percent in December as consumer demand softened amid a weak housing market and higher gas prices.
GM said it sold 319,837 cars and light trucks in the United States last month, down 4.4 percent from 334,501 vehicles a year earlier. Including heavier trucks, total vehicle sales were down 5.2 percent to 323,453 units in December, GM said.
Ford Motor, which has slipped to the No. 3 spot among U.S. automakers by sales, said Thursday its U.S. sales fell 9 percent in December.
Ford said it sold 212,094 vehicles in the United States in December, compared with 233,621 vehicles a year earlier.
Sales results for Ford included its import brands Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover, and some medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Ford said its full-year sales for 2007 were down 12 percent from a year earlier at 2.57 million vehicles. (Related: Ford Looks to Sell Brands).
Retail sales through showrooms were down 10 percent for the year, while sales to corporate fleet operators declined 18 percent, Ford said. That included a 32 percent reduction in sales to rental car agencies, it said.
The automaker said that more than two-thirds of its sales decline in 2007 reflected discontinued vehicles, such as the now-scrapped older version of its Taurus sedan.
For December, Ford's retail sales were down 13 percent while its fleet sales were down 1 percent. Sales of Ford's market-leading F-Series pickup trucks were down 22 percent.
Ford repeated its forecast that industry-wide U.S. light vehicle sales could slip to an annualized rate of between 15.2 million and 15.7 million units in the first half of 2008.
GM Sees U.S. Sales Flat With 2008
GM said it delivered 3.87 million vehicles in 2007, down 6 percent compared with 2006.
In a talk before the results were released, General Motors Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said Thursday the company expects its overall 2008 U.S. auto sales to be about the same as the depressed levels of 2007.
Wagoner Looks Overseas
Wagoner's cautious outlook came as oil prices topped $100 per barrel, further darkening investors' sentiment for the battered auto sector. Shares of GM tumbled to a 19-month low in response.