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Oracle of Delphi

Toyota passes Ford in U.S. sales in 2007

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DETROIT - Detroit’s automakers went out with a whimper in 2007, as a lackluster December failed to pull the industry out of the lowest U.S. auto sales slump in nearly a decade.

Ford Motor Co. was knocked from its perch as the No. 2 U.S. auto seller, a position it held since 1931, while General Motors appeared likely to lose its title of the largest automaker in the world. Both were dethroned by the juggernaut that is Toyota.

Toyota Motor Corp. sold 2.62 million cars and trucks in the U.S. in 2007, which amounted to 48,226 more than Ford, according to sales figures released Thursday. Toyota’s sales were up 3 percent for the year, buoyed by new products such as the Toyota Tundra pickup, which saw sales jump 57 percent. Ford’s sales fell 12 percent to 2.57 million vehicles.

General Motors Corp. remained the U.S. sales leader, selling 3.82 million vehicles in 2007. But that was down 6 percent from the previous year as customers turned away from some large sedans and sport utility vehicles and GM cut low-profit sales to employees and rental car companies.

Even worse, GM could fall behind Toyota in the race to be the world’s biggest automaker. GM said Thursday it made 9.28 million vehicles worldwide last year, roughly 230,000 fewer than Toyota’s 2007 production estimate of 9.51 million. Toyota expects to have final numbers later in January but issued the 2007 estimate on Dec. 25 with just six days left in the year.

The real prize, the worldwide auto sales lead, must still be determined, with both companies to release 2007 global sales figures later this month. GM has been the world’s largest automaker by sales for 76 years.

Officials at GM, Ford and Toyota downplayed the news Thursday.

“We don’t pay a lot of attention to rankings such as that,” Toyota spokesman Irv Miller said. “It’s always nice to see the product is recognized and accepted by the consumer. The consumer’s going to be the ultimate determining factor in who the winner is.”

In an Internet chat with journalists, GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said GM leads in 13 of the 15 largest markets, but Toyota has a huge lead in Japan.

“We’re staying focused on our plan,” he said. “Great cars, smart marketing, growth in the emerging markets. And hopefully that will keep us on top. If not, we’ll come back to work the next day and work even harder.”

Standard and Poor’s credit analyst Gregg Lemos-Stein added that Toyota overtook Ford and GM years ago in the most important measures: Profitability and cash flow. Toyota’s profit for the July-September quarter rose to 450.9 billion yen ($4 billion), up 11 percent from the same period the previous year. By contrast, GM posted a record $39 billion loss in the same quarter, mostly due to unused tax credits, while Ford posted a loss of $380 million.

Lemos-Stein said 2007 started off weak and automakers got no boost in the usually busy summer months. There was a rebound in August and September due to increased incentive spending, he said, but the year still ended with the lowest sales since 1998 as consumers fretted about high gas prices, falling home values and the economy. U.S. sales totaled 16.1 million vehicles, down from 16.6 million in 2006, according to Autodata Corp.

December didn’t improve things despite a slew of holiday discounts. Toyota’s sales slipped 2 percent for the month, while GM’s sales were down 4 percent and Ford’s fell 9 percent.

The rest of the Article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22488803/

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Even worse, GM could fall behind Toyota in the race to be the world’s biggest automaker.

Toyota's the only one who's making this a race. I think that by slashing rental fleet sales, GM has finally realized that being No. 1 is nothing more than a title.

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I don't give a damn about this race anymore...I just want these automakers to survive....

We are in for a very nasty 2008....

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Even worse, GM could fall behind Toyota in the race to be the world’s biggest automaker.

Didn't that already happen? And then GM surpassed them again? I mean, what's so new about that statement?

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GM looks like it might surpass them by the skin of their teeth... We'll have to wait for worldwide numbers but It'll be a photo finish methinks.

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Don't care. Who cares about being number one when your product ultimately suffers because you are absorbed with putting quantity before quality?

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