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Toyota: Are They Ready To Be Number One?

Monday, 3 Nov 2008 | 9:08 AM ET

Later today we'll find out if Toyota passes up GM in October auto sales to become the first foreign auto maker to lead the U.S. in monthly auto sales. If it happens, it would be a watershed moment in the auto industry and in American business. It will also be played down by Toyota.

Halfway through October, at least one analysis of retail sales showed Toyotaout selling GM. This shouldn't be a surprise since Toyota's "Saved by Zero" campaign has been widespread. Meanwhile, GM's campaign to remind customers that GM dealers will find them financing has been, in my opinion, less pervasive and less effective.

If Toyota out selling GM for October is the big story to watch today, another will be Chrysler. How much have sales suffered since the auto maker has, despite the company denials, been publicly put on the sale block?

Even more troubling for Chrysler is whether buyers have steered clear of its dealerships as talk of a possible bankruptcy has been thrown around during talk show discussions about a government loan for a GM merger. While Chrysler is not going bankrupt in the immediate future, its long term financial health is in question. That's the kind of thing that makes buyers think twice.

Finally, look for October sales to be the weakest in the U.S. Since the early eighties. The numbers will be ugly.

    • OPEC Oil Output Falls in October: Survey

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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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