DETROIT -- It could be a long, hot summer for any automaker selling big pickups and SUVs.
Faced with record high fuel prices and a tight credit market, Americans said no thanks in a big way to expensive pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles in April, inflicting pain on every automaker and their dealers who sell them, even Toyota Motor Corp.
In April, when a barrel of oil sold for as much as $120 and the price of a gallon of gasoline was between $3.50 and $4.00 in most parts of the country, trucks and SUVs fell quickly off shopping lists.
Industrywide sales declined in the month by 9.0 percent to 1.04 million vehicles. Sales for the year-to-date also are down 9.0 percent, with 4.5 million vehicles sold. As of 8:45 p.m. EDT, Honda Motor Co. and Kia Motors had not yet reported their final results.
The only silver lining in the April numbers: sales of small vehicles and hybrids were strong for most automakers.
Ford illustrates the trends
Ford Motor Co.s SUV sales plunged 36 percent compared with last April, while truck sales skidded 19 percent. Fords cash cow, the F-series pickup, saw a 21 percent drop compared with last April. Ford sold 44,813 F-series trucks in April compared with 56,692 in April 2007.
Fords total April sales, including all brands, fell 12.1 percent to 200,007 from 228,623 from a year ago.
Soon-to-be sold Jaguar is the only Ford-owned brand that showed a sales gain in April. Jaguar and Land Rover are scheduled to be bought by Tata Motors of India next month in a deal that will put $1.7 billion in Fords coffers. On the strength of the new XF sports sedan, Jaguar registered a 25.4 percent gain with 1,785 vehicles sold in April. That is up from 1.424 sold last April.
With 23,850 cars sold in April, the Focus compact was Fords brightest star last month. Focus sales were up 43.5 percent compared with April 2007. The Escape, Edge and Mercury Mariner crossovers, Fusion and Mercury Milan cars, and the Lincoln MKX crossover also posted gains over last year.
Ford had other good news in the otherwise dismal month. Its Mazda affiliate posted banner results.
Mazdas North American Operations recorded a 12.8 percent gain for the month and year-to-date sales are up 1.3 percent over 2007. In April, Mazda sold a total of 23,760 vehicles. Mazda's car and truck sales both rose in April.
Several models posted double-digit gains for the month: the Mazda3, Mazda5, Mazda6 and the Tribute led the way.
"Having the right vehicles at the right price, at the right time, is driving our sales success this month and this year," Mazda North American CEO Jim O'Sullivan said in a statement.
"We anticipated the possibility of rising gas prices with a very strong lineup of fuel efficient vehicles which appeal to consumers' dramatically changing lifestyles."
GM sales ills continue
General Motors sold 257,638 vehicles in April, a 16.2 percent drop over last April. As with Ford and Toyota, GMs trucks and SUVs suffered the biggest declines. GMs truck sales fell 26.5 percent in April to 140,098. Last April, GM sold 190,678 trucks.
Car sales fared much better in April, showing only a 0.2 percent dip. GM sold 120,824 cars in April, down from 121, 009 last year.
Chevrolets new Malibu is coming on strong, with sales up 39 percent over a year ago. In April Chevrolet dealers delivered 17,050 Malibus, compared with 12,218 sold last year.
GM also is getting more money for the Malibu, says Mark LaNeve, vice president of GM's North America sales, service and marketing.
"We're up close to $4,000 on the average transaction price, a 20 percent increase, LaNeve said. You normally don't see that sort of increase but we have a fantastic product. We're transacting at about the Camry level."
The subcompact Aveo also scored in April, logging a 23.5 percent gain over last year with 5,822 sold. Another Chevrolet small car, the Cobalt, turned in a solid sales month with 18,636 sold compared with 14,899 last year. That computes to a 25.1 percent gain.
Sales of Saturn cars, which are less than two years old, were down 23.8 percent in April as GM ramps up the launch of the Astra hatchback, which is replacing the Ion. Sales of the new Saturn Outlook crossover were down 33.8 percent in April. GM had seen strong demand for the Outlook and its two cousins, the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. But Acadia was off 8.8 percent. Enclave led the pack with 4,120 in sales.
The Cadillac CTS, up 16.4 percent, was perhaps, the only other bright spot for GM in April. Cadillac sold 5,406 CTSs in April, up from 4,644 sold last year.
Toyota posts small gain
Toyota posted a 3.4 percent increase for the month, mostly coming from sales of fuel efficient small cars and hybrid vehicles. Scion posted its first year-over-year gain in 18 months, although it is compared to last April's selldown period.
On the flip side, April marked the first sales decline for the redesigned Tundra since its launch last February. So while Prius has less than four days' supply, Toyota is carrying 80-plus days' ground stock of Tundras, said Bob Carter, Toyota Division general manager.
Toyota strongholds like California and Florida continue to suffer, but eight of 12 Toyota regions posted their best Aprils ever, Carter said.
Toyota has dramatically changed its estimate for industry sales for the year, to the low-15 million range. Although Toyota still expects a rebound in the second half, the first half so far has been much softer than Toyota anticipated when it previously forecast a 16.1 million year.
Although executives say Lexus is not about volume, sales continue to struggle. Many customers instead are opting for pre-owned vehicles instead, said Lexus general manager Mark Templin. Pre-owned Lexus sales were up 15.8 percent, while factory certified pre-owned sales were up 35 percent.
Chrysler: More double-digit declines
Chrysler LLC sales dropped 23.5 percent for April and are down 17.6 percent for the year to date. The company blamed the decline on the industrys slow truck and SUV sales and on its own decision to reduce sales to rental fleets.
Steven Landry, executive vice president for North American sales said fleet sales were down 33 percent for April.
The Chrysler brand dropped 32 percent for the month, Jeep dropped 18 percent and Dodge 17 percent.
Leading the March losses were pickups and SUVs. Jeep Commander sales plummeted 49 percent, while the Grand Cherokee fell 31 percent. Dodge Ram pickup sales fell 23 percent, the Dakota pickup was off 38 percent and the Durango 45 percent. On the Chrysler brand side, the deleted Pacifica dropped 92 percent and the 300 sedan dropped 37 percent.
Small vehicles provided the lone bright spots. Sales of the Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber rose 119 percent and 5 percent respectively.
Other automakers reporting:
Hyundai: The South Korean automakers sales were up 0.4 percent over last April, selling 39,280 vehicles. Sluggish sales of the Tiburon sports coupe, Tucson SUV, Entourage minivan and Azera sedan kept Hyundai from having a better month. The Accent, Sonata, Elantra cars and Sante Fe crossover were up from a year ago.
Mercedes-Benz: The tiny Smart car kept overall sales ahead of last year. The Mercedes brand was down 3 percent in April, but sales of 2,683 Smart cars boosted parent company Daimler AGs total U.S. sales by 9.8 percent to 22,969 in April. That is compared with sales of 20,917 vehicles during April 2007 before the Smart went on sale. Mercedes entry-level C-class sedan had a strong month with sales up 33.5 percent over last year. Mercedes dealers sold 6,151 C-class units this year compared with 5,131 sold last April.
Nissan Motor Co.: Nissans North American unit saw an April sales increase of 4,731 vehicles for its Nissan and Infiniti brands.
Versa, Sentra and Altima led the way for Nissan, all posting gains of more than 25 percent. Nissan's total car sales were up 16.7 percent. But truck sales dropped 19.7 percent. The Titan was off 54.9 percent, with sales dropping from 4,922 last year to just 2,407 this April.
Xterra, Pathfinder and Armada also saw major declines, all with sales down more than 40 percent. Sales of cars and trucks at Nissan's luxury Infiniti division were off 11.5 percent over last April.
Volkswagen: The German automaker eked out a small gain in April. Sales increased 1.7 percent over last year to 19,415 units, from 19,086 sold in April 2007. For the year, VW sales are up 0.8 percent over last year.
The star performer for VW in April was the Eos roadster, which posted its best month ever with 1,663 sold, a 45.6 percent jump over last Aprils sales. The Passat sedan and wagon, with sales of 3,673, also performed well, logging a 6.8 percent gain over last year. But one Volkswagen that should have done well but didnt was the entry level Rabbit hatchback. April sales of 1,809 were off 6.4 percent over last April.
BMW AG: The luxury automaker posted a 9.6 percent gain for the month, but sales for the year to date are still lagging 4.0 percent.
Subaru and Suzuki: Subaru posted a strong gain of 21.7 percent for the month and is up 1.6 percent for the year to date.
Suzuki gained 5.3 percent, but is down 2.4 percent for the year.
Honda Motor Co.: The Japanese automaker said its U.S. sales for April were estimated to have risen about 6 percent from a year ago to more 134,000 vehicles.
Honda said its preliminary sales results showed its Honda-brand sales increased to an all-time monthly high of 121,500 units. That compares with 111,226 units from a year ago.
Sales for its luxury Acura brand dropped to about 12,900 units, down from 15,193 units from a year earlier.
Honda said it would report final April sales numbers after technical difficulties are resolved.
Mark Rechtin, Bradford Wernle, Jamie LaReau, and Reuters contributed to this report