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Consumers Put The Breaks On Love Affair With Trucks, SUVs

Tuesday, 3 Jun 2008 | 4:44 PM ET

Mark it down. May is the month that finally broke the back of the Big 3's great run with trucks and SUVs. Oh sure, Detroit still dominates the truck business, but it's clear buyers want something less, that's what is hurting Detroit. And the guys running America's automakers have heard the message loud and clear.

Among the sales in Maythat stood out:

- For the first time ever, Asian automakers outsold the Big 3 in the U.S. Asian firms sold 48.1% of the vehicles last month while the Big 3 sold 44.4%. This is a watershed event given the dominance of the American auto companies. GM , still number 1 in the U.S., has less than 20% market share with a 19% share.

- For the first time since October of '91, the Ford F-Series pick-up is not the best selling vehicle in the U.S. In May, Honda's Civic is #1 with the Accord, Toyota's Corolla and Camry also outselling the F-series. Yes, you can say it's a one month blip and that Ford's signature pick-up will bounce back when the new version comes out later this year, but make no mistake, the Civic (up 28%) won top prize because buyers want more fuel efficient cars.

- HUMMER is gasping for air. Not only did sales plunge more than 60% in May, but GM has announced the HUMMER brand may be sold. You have to wonder how much GM might get for HUMMER given it's weakening sales, or who might buy it. This brand still has cache with a niche part of the market so it's not a loss. But with gas at roughly $4 a gallon, HUMMER is hurting.

- The Asian automakers are flexing their muscles, and picking up share with a line-up of cars that work right now. Honda has record sales in May. Toyota was down 6%, which is still far better far better than the decline at Ford (down 19 %) Chrysler (down 28.3%) and GM (down 30%).

- Even with incentives, people are cautious about buying. The amount of money dealers are putting on new cars is up, according to Edmunds.com.But that money is trumped by higher gas prices. If people want to buy, there are great deals. The problem is getting them first to want that new car or truck.

Ford U.S. Sales Down
The automaker's sales slipped in May, reports CNBC's Phil Lebeau

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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