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Ford Motor sales skid 21 per cent, Honda posts nine per cent rise

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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 crossover vehicle.

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.

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Ford Motor sales skid 21 per cent, Honda posts nine per cent rise
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