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GM US Sales Rise as Other Automakers See Drops

General Motors said that its total U.S. vehicle sales rose 2.1 percent in January -- making it the only major automaker to turn in improved results for the month.

General Motors
AP
General Motors

GM said its U.S. retail sales rose in the month, supported by hot-selling vehicles such as the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu and the Cadillac CTS, and month-end vehicle inventories declined.

GM said it sold 252,565 vehicles in January in the United States, up from 247,464 in the same month last year. The No. 1 U.S. automaker said light vehicle sales rose 2.6 percent to 250,926 vehicles.

The automaker added 15,000 vehicles to its first-quarter production forecast for North America, pushing it to 965,000 vehicles. That includes 357,000 cars and 608,000 trucks.

GM said it produced 297,000 vehicles in the region in January, down 16,000 from the year- earlier period.

GMC sales rose 13.3 percent to 32,270 vehicles, while Saturn sales gained 12.1 percent to 15,359 vehicles during the month.

Hummer sales sank 23.4 percent to 3,050 vehicles, and Saab sales slipped 25 percent to 1,772 vehicles in January.

Chevrolet sales rose nearly 1 percent to 149,548 vehicles.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said its inventory of cars and trucks dropped by about 165,000 from a year earlier to roughly 904,000 at the end of January, with about two-thirds of the inventory related to trucks. (See Phil LeBeau's on-air report at left.)

Ford Motor said that U.S. auto sales fell 4.1 percent in January, and the economic and competitive market would remain challenging.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker was the first to report figures for what industry analysts expect to be the beginning of the worst sales year in more than a decade.

Ford said it sold 159,355 light vehicles for the month as it continued a strategy to wean itself from low-profit rental car and other fleet sales. That was down from January 2007 when the company sold 165,877 cars and trucks.

The company said sales of its crossover vehicles, the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, improved with Edge sales up 95 percent and MKX rising 78 percent. A revamped Focus small car saw sales up 44 percent.

But sales fell of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, Ford's traditional cash cows. Sales of F-series pickups, the top selling vehicles in the U.S., dropped 8.4 percent, while Explorer SUV sales fell 18.7 percent when compared with January 2007.

Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of marketing, said in a statement the company was pleased with the January results in a "challenging economic and competitive environment." (See Phil LeBeau's Ford report at left.)

But he said sales aren't likely to recover in the near term.

"It's not going to get any easier -- at least for a while," Farley said.

He said recent interest rate cuts and a proposed federal economic stimulus package may help the economy later in the year, but Ford isn't counting on that.

"Our plan is based on restructuring our business to be profitable at lower demand and changed mix while also accelerating the development of new products people want to buy," his statement said.

Ford sales include the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands as well as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.

In January 2007, Ford's U.S. sales had dropped 19 percent compared with January 2006.

But sales fell of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, Ford's traditional cash cows. Sales of F-series pickups, the top selling vehicles in the U.S., dropped 8.4 percent, while Explorer SUV sales fell 18.7 percent when compared with January 2007.

Chrysler said that its U.S. sales fell 12 percent in the month. Chrysler said it sold 137,392 vehicles in the United States last month compared with 156,308 vehicles a year earlier.

Chrysler also finished the month with 413,874 units of inventory, or a 75-day supply. Inventory is down by 15 percent compared with January 2007 when it was at 488,410 units, the automaker said.

Japanese Automakers See Drop

Toyota Motor, which had seen strong growth last year, said Friday its January light vehicle sales dropped 2.3 percent, to 171,849 in January from a strong 175,850 in January 2006. Its performance still was strong enough to beat Ford for the No. 2 U.S. sales spot.

Toyota-brand sales dropped 1.4 percent to 151,550 vehicles. Sales for the company's luxury Lexus unit fell 8.2 percent to 20,299 vehicles, Toyota said.

Toyota saw car sales fell 5.7 percent due in large part to an 18.7 percent drop in sales of its Corolla small car. But truck sales were up 2.2 percent, including a 91 percent increase in Tundra pickup sales.

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Honda Motor saw a similar decline, with U.S. sales down 2.3 percent for the month.

The Japanese automaker said it sold 98,511 vehicles in the United States last month, including results for its luxury Acura brand. That compared with 100,790 vehicles a year earlier, Honda said.

At Nissan, the company reported selling 76,605 vehicles for the month, down from 82,644 in the year-ago period. Car sales dropped 6.9 percent while truck sales nosedived 7.9 percent, the company said.

Higher gasoline prices combined with the slumping housing market have raised concerns that the U.S. economy could tip into recession this year and cause consumers to delay big-ticket purchases such as new vehicles. That has led many in the auto industry to predict a second straight year of lower sales.

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