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03. July 2008

GM king of bleak market in U.S.

DETROIT – General Motors Corp. soundly beat Toyota Motor Corp. in June to retain its traditional U.S. sales lead, but GM sales still dropped 18.2 percent during a dismal month for large automakers.

Toyota’s U.S. sales fell 21.4 percent, while Ford Motor Co. said it sales tumbled nearly 28 percent. Chrysler LLC took a huge hit for the month with sales down 35.9 percent.

GM’s shares bounced more than 2 percent higher in late trading Tuesday after sinking to their lowest level in more than a half-century during Monday’s session. The automaker has a truck plant in southwest Allen County and a foundry in Defiance, Ohio.

The nation’s biggest automaker Tuesday reported selling 262,329 vehicles for the month, compared with Toyota’s 193,234. Some industry analysts had expected Toyota to beat GM in the U.S. for the first time, but both companies were hurt by a sluggish economy and poor sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Toyota car sales fell 9.4 percent in June, while its truck sales were off 38.8 percent.

GM’s car sales sank 21 percent in June, while its incentive-boosted truck sales were off 16 percent.

For the first half of the year, GM sales fell 16.3 percent compared with the year-ago period. Toyota sales were down 6.8 percent for the first six months of the year.

Toyota took the global sales lead from General Motors in the first quarter, capitalizing on growth in China and Europe as GM saw its North American sales drag down gains in other markets. GM barely won the global sales race with Toyota last year, but Toyota overtook it as the world’s top automaker as measured by global vehicle production in 2007.

To help boost sales, Chrysler said it would extend its $2.99-per-gallon gasoline price guarantee through July 31. The guarantee lasts for three years, with Chrysler paying the difference between $2.99 and the pump price for 12,000 miles a year. It had been scheduled to expire July 7.

Even with the promotion, which had been in effect since early May, Chrysler’s car sales were off 48.5 percent, while truck sales were down 30.1 percent.

The company said in a statement the down sales figures reflect a contracting market, especially for pickup trucks and SUVs, and continued reductions in fleet sales.

Honda Motor Co., with its car-heavy lineup, was the only major automaker to report a sales increase in June, a modest 1.1 percent. A 19.3 percent rise in car sales offset a 24 percent drop in trucks.

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