Toyota soars as industry falters

Top vehicle sellers for August 2001
1. Ford F series 75,038
2. Chevrolet Silverado 53,799
3. Ford Explorer 38,270
4. Honda Accord 38,241
5. Honda Civic 36,533
6. Toyota Camry 34,509
7. Dodge Ram pickup 28,028
8. Ford Taurus 27,916
9. Ford Ranger 26,698
10. Ford Focus 21,764
Winners and losers for August 2001
Change in sales from August 2000
WINNERS
1. Hyundai 46.20%
2. Rolls/Bentley 44.00%
3. Kia 41.50%
4. Acura 23.70%
5. Volvo 17.90%
LOSERS
1. Plymouth -63.80%
2. Daewoo -53.20%
3. Lincoln -35.60%
4. Saturn -34.00%
5. Dodge -25.60%
Source: Automotive News Data Center

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is having a record year in a slumping market, and rocketing light-truck sales are the biggest reason.

The Toyota brand has outsold Dodge Division for 10 straight months, making Toyota the No. 3-selling U.S. nameplate this year. Should Toyota hang on, it would mark the first time that an import nameplate has finished the year among the top three marques in sales in this country.

For the whole industry, light-vehicle sales were off 5.9 percent for the month, to 1,452,381. Year to date, total sales were off 4.9 percent, to 11.5 million.

Big 3 economists said that for the full year, light-vehicle sales should be around 16.5 to 16.7 million, the third-best year.

Big 3 take hit

Like Toyota, General Motors also had higher truck sales in August, up 7.1 percent. But also like Toyota, GM's car sales were below the year-ago month. Overall, GM fell 7.6 percent.

Ford Motor Co. dropped 7.5 percent overall, which was an improvement relative to Ford's year-to-date sales, which were off 11.2 percent. Its light-truck sales were off only 2.1 percent, but car sales fell 15.3 percent.

"August was better than we expected, and I think it's a month we can build on," said George Pipas, sales analysis and reporting manager at Ford.

DaimlerChrysler's total U.S. sales plunged 22.2 percent compared with a record year-ago month, even though Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. had a record August.

Chrysler group minivan sales fell sharply compared with a year ago, when the Chrysler group had high minivan incentives to clear out old models.

"These numbers don't thrill us, by any means," said Christine Cortez, vice president of sales and marketing operations.

Chrysler group light-truck sales were off 28.5 percent for the month. The Voyager minivan was down 61.7 percent.

"We're glad we're not in the inventory shape we were a year ago, but it makes us look bad this year," she said.

Toyota gains ground

In addition to the surging Toyota brand, the Chrysler group's slump is allowing Toyota to slowly catch up to the No. 3 U.S. automaker in total sales.

Through August, year-to-date sales for Lexus and Toyota combined were up 6.4 percent to almost 1,167,582, compared with a 4.9 percent decline for the industry, to 11.5 million.

Lexus and Toyota had a combined market share of 10.1 percent year to date, compared with 9.1 percent a year ago.

That makes it likely that Toyota will finish 2001 with more than a 10 percent U.S. market share for the first time.

At the same time, DaimlerChrysler, including Mercedes, slipped to a 14.7 percent share year to date, compared with 15.6 percent a year ago.

Toyota Executive Vice President Jim Press said Toyota should do even better during the fourth quarter, when the redesigned 2002 Camry will be available in greater volume. Camry sales fell 7.1 percent for the month.

Japanese rival American Honda Motor Co. Inc. captured bragging rights for cars for the month, with the Honda Accord the No. 1-selling car and the Honda Civic at No. 2.

Including Honda and Acura, sales fell 0.4 percent short of a year-ago record, and Honda Division passed Dodge Division in sales for the month of August. But Honda Division still lagged Dodge by 176,671 sales through the eight month period ended Aug. 31.

Dick Colliver, executive vice president, said the company might have broken its record except for low inventories of the Accord, Odyssey and MDX models.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com
Tags: Toyota Sales

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