Auto Sales In US Decline, Chrysler Down 48 Percent


April turned out to be a bad month for U.S. car sales, but some of the declines were less than expected.

Chrysler had total sales in April of 76,682 units, representing a 48 percent decrease versus 2008. Total April sales include a fleet reduction of 66 percent year-over-year for the same period, as the company says it continues to emphasize retail over fleet.

Car sales for Chrysler were 15,563 in April versus 39,564, a decline of 61 percent from 2008. Total truck sales were down down 44 percent to 61,119.

Despite the big declines, all the numbers were well above forecasts.

"The industry appears to have stabilized, as it's been fairly level for the past four months," said Jim Press, Vice Chairman and President, of Chrysler. " We know where the bottom is, and as the economy struggles to recover, vehicle sales should follow."

"Chrysler retail sales and share were well above expectations, which shows the real strength of our dealers and products in the marketplace in spite of a month filled with troubling headlines," said Press.

Press added, "This gives us reason for optimism as we begin working on our new alliance and restructuring plans."

Chrysler the third-largest car manufacturer in the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday.

GM's sales in the U.S. for April were down 34 percent but beat the estimated sales decline of  36.8 percent. GM sold 173,007 vehicles versus 260,922 a year ago.

The numbers came in as the automaker said the Asia-Pacific operations of GM will stay within the company fold regardless of whether GM ends up declaring bankruptcy or not.

Nick Reilly, president of GM's Asia and Pacific business, told reporters, however, that those companies will need to be financially self-sufficient as they will be unable to access U.S. government funds.

Detroit-based GM, which has received billions of dollars in government financial support, is working on a restructuring plan and has until June 1 to avoid a possible bankruptcy filing.

And Ford posted a 31.6 percent decline in U.S. sales Friday for April as the economic downturn continued to pressure the industry.

Ford sales fell to 134,401 vehicles in April including all of its brands, from 196,385 vehicles a year earlier.

For just the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, sales fell 31.4 percent to 129,898 vehicles in the month from a year earlier.

Ford, which posted a smaller than expected loss of $1.43 billion in the first quarter, is the only U.S. automaker not operating with emergency U.S. government loans.

It expects to have gained U.S. retail market share for the sixth time in seven months in April despite the overall sales decline.

Among its Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands, car sales fell 28.8 percent, crossover sales fell 15.1 percent, sport-utility vehicle sales fell 60.9 percent, and truck and van sales fell 35.8 percent.

The automaker is restructuring its operations and said in April that it has been in discussions with potential buyers for its Swedish luxury brand Volvo.

Volvo sales for the month fell 36.9 percent to 4,503 vehicles.

"We continue to operate in a very challenging economic and competitive environment," Ford vice president of sales and marketing Ken Czubay said in a statement.

Czubay said Ford was encouraged by its sales of mid-size sedans.

Fusion sales rose 21.7 percent to 18,321 for the month, the only vehicle model that showed an increase among the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.

The sales release did not address Chrysler's bankruptcy filing on Thursday or the restructuring efforts of rival General Motors which faces a government-imposed June 1 deadline to rework its turnaround plan.

Other automakers having a slow down in April include Toyota . The Japanese company said its U.S. sales were down 41.9 percent from the same time last year.

Porsche Cars North America announced April sales in the U.S. of 1,853 units compared to the same period last year when it sold 2,863.

So far in 2009, Porsche's year-to-date U.S. sales are 6,778 versus 9,640 in 2008, a decline of 30 percent.

For the month of April, Porsche's Approved Certified Pre-Owned vehicle sales were 615, compared to 691 for the same period last year.

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And Nissan North American said its total vehicle U.S. sales for April were 47,190, down 37.8 percent from 2008. The No. 3 Japanese automaker saw double-digit sales declines across both its car and truck segments.

Subaru broke a streak of sales increases, reporting a 6.7 percent decline in volumes for April, hurt by a drop in volumes of its Outback wagon and Impreza sedan.

The Japanese automaker had been bucking brutal trends in the auto market. It was the only major automaker to report a sales increase in 2008.

American Honda Motor said Friday its U.S. sales fell by 25.3 percent in April as volumes dropped for all its models amid low overall auto demand.

The U.S.-based unit of the Japanese automaker said it sold 101,029 light vehicles in April, compared with 135,180 the same month a year earlier. Unit sales of the Honda division dropped 24.5 percent to 92,216 from April 2008.

Sales for the Acura division fell 32.3 percent to 8,813 units. Acura TL sales decreased 27.6 percent to 3,105 units and the MDX saw volume drop by 40.1 percent to 2,337.

In the Honda division, Accord sales dropped 15.6 percent to 29,212 units and Civic sales fell 23.2 percent to 26,252.

Fit sales tumbled 30.7 percent to 4,115 units. Despite the overall drop, sales were the highest so far this year, John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for American Honda, noted in a release.