Tuesday, March 4, 2008

U.S. sales of most profitable vehicles plunge

Toyota Motor Corp. reported Monday that sales of its cars fell by 4 percent in February.
Toyota Motor Corp. reported Monday that sales of its cars fell by 4 percent in February.

Automakers got hit where it hurts in February, with U.S. sales of their most profitable vehicles — trucks, sport utilities and large sedans — plunging.

In the face of those falling U.S. sales, General Motors and Ford announced second-quarter production cuts affecting several plants. GM’s Fairfax plant and Ford’s Claycomo plant won’t be affected.

General Motors reported a sales decline of almost 13 percent. Ford’s sales slumped 7 percent, Chrysler’s tumbled 8 percent and Toyota’s fell 3 percent.

GM said its sales decline was led by a 19 percent drop in sales of trucks and SUVs.

GM has responded to the downturn by cutting North American production by 5 percent in the second quarter to 1.08 million vehicles.

Toyota said its car sales fell 4 percent, while its truck sales were flat for the month.

Toyota saw particular weakness in its luxury Lexus division, where sales of its LS 460 sedan fell 25 percent for the month.

Ford said sales of its crossovers were brisk in February, but buyers shunned its large sedans and SUVs. Its car sales dropped 9 percent while truck sales fell 5 percent.

Chrysler said its car sales were up 9 percent, largely on the strength of the Dodge Caliber subcompact, which was up 10 percent for the month, and the midsize Dodge Avenger, which was up 60 percent. But its truck sales fell 22 percent. Chrysler’s newly redesigned Dodge Caravan minivan was down 32 percent for the month.

Nissan Motor Co. bucked the trend in February, reporting a 1 percent sales increase, thanks to strong sales of its Versa subcompact. Like other automakers, Nissan also reported strong crossover sales, with its recently redesigned Murano up 6 percent. Ford’s Edge crossover was up 46 percent for the month, while GM’s GMC Acadia was up 33 percent.

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