Imports tip the scales to cars

Cars cling to a slim lead in the U.S. sales derby, but it's the import-badged autos, not the domestic brands, that give cars the edge.

After seven months of this year, cars held 51.7 percent of the market and trucks had 48.3 percent.

That's the big, big picture. Breaking it into components gives a different perspective.

Cars account for only 41.2 percent of Big 3 sales, but cars hold 69.9 percent of the sales of import-badged vehicles.

For Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group (Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Jeep), cars are something of a sideline. They make up only 37.2 percent of Ford's sales and 32.1 percent of Chrysler's.

Simple arithmetic puts the truck share at 62.8 percent for Ford and 67.9 percent for Chrysler.

Even General Motors, the last domestic holdout in the car market, has succumbed. Its seven-month deliveries were 49 percent cars and 51 percent trucks.

Compare those numbers with car sales for the vehicles carrying foreign nameplates. Cars have 63.3 percent of Japan's U.S. sales, 82.9 percent of Korea's and 90.1 percent of Europe's.

Among the imports, car sales exceed truck sales for every make except Isuzu and Land Rover. The reason is simple: Isuzu and Land Rover don't sell cars in this country.

The Big 3 sold about 3 percent more cars than the imports in the first seven months of this year, but they sold about 31/2 times as many trucks. The imports are strong in sport-utilities but are sparsely represented elsewhere in the truck segment. Only Toyota, Nissan and Mazda offer pickups, and only those three and Honda sell minivans.

Ups and downs

Car and light-truck sales were off 4.8 percent from 2000 for the first seven months of this year, and that's rather surprising in view of the doom and gloom spread by the so-called experts.

But don't beat too hard on the Wall Street whizzes. Big 3 sales were down 9.3 percent, and that is a substantial dip. Imports took up some of the slack with a gain of 4.3 percent.

By make, only one domestic showed a gain - Chrysler, up 14.8 percent and now a solid seventh in the overall standings. The other 14 domestics were on the minus side in the end-of-July rankings.

Twenty-four import-badged makes report their sales to Automotive News. For the seven-month period, 15 notched gains and nine declined.

Crypt-ic comments

Plymouth is dead and Oldsmobile has been sentenced to death. So how are they doing in the marketplace?

Only 2,044 Plymouths were sold in July, and only 6,700 were in inventory when the month began.

Oldsmobile, still in production, is limping along the sales trail, but it's not exactly a basket case when compared with some of its GM siblings. Olds' sales are down 14.5 percent so far this year. That's not much more than Pontiac, off 11.7 percent; and Buick, down 10.3 percent.

And Oldsmobile positively shines when compared with Cadillac, which is off 16 percent for the year.

You can reach John K. Teahen Jr. at

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