Ford Motor's U.S. sales plummeted 21 per cent in
September on a steep dropoff in car sales, while Toyota reported a
four per cent decline, according to results released Tuesday.
But Honda Motor Co. reported a U.S. sales increase of more than
nine per cent for the month.
Ford's car sales dropped 39 per cent compared with last
September, while its truck sales slipped five per cent. Sales of
Ford's F-150 pickup, long the best-selling vehicle in the United
States, fell 21 per cent as newer pickups from General Motors Corp.
and Toyota Motor Corp. stole its thunder.
Ford said a 62 per cent reduction in sales to rental car fleets
partly was to blame. Ford has been trying to cut back on rental
sales, which can hurt brand image and profits.
Ford's overall sales were down 13 per cent for the first nine
months of the year. Ford hasn't seen a month when sales rose since
October 2006, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.
``Under the circumstances the industry held up pretty well
overall,'' George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst, said in a
conference call with media and investors. ``I think the industry
parred a difficult hole in September.''
Toyota's overall decline compared with September of last year was
led by its trucks, which were off 5.7 per cent. Car sales were down
3.5 per cent, the company reported, but it said the figures were
compared with a best-ever September 2006.
Analysts have said a drop in Toyota sales is usually a sign of a
bad month for all automakers since the company had been showing
increases during most months.
Honda bucked the negative trend thanks to a 7.2 per cent rise in
car sales, while truck sales rose 12.5 per cent. Honda Motor, which
includes Honda and the Acura luxury brand, said its Honda division
reported a record September, led by its new Accord sedan and CR-V
Many analysts predicted that jittery consumers put off big-ticket
purchases in reaction to credit turmoil, high gasoline prices and
the troubled housing market. Last week's two-day strike against GM
by the United Auto Workers wasn't expected to have much impact.
Wall Street analysts predicted overall sales would be down four
per cent for the month.
The Associated Press reports unadjusted figures, calculating the
percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month,
compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report
percentages adjusted for sales days. There were 25 sales days last
month and 26 in September 2006.
Ford's shares rose 30 cents, or 3.7 per cent, to US$8.53 in
afternoon trading Tuesday as investors anticipated a new contract
with the UAW that could help Ford. Toyota's U.S. shares fell 87
cents to $117.88.