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General Motors holds off Toyota in June US sales

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AP News StoryBy TOM KRISHER and DEE-ANN DURBIN – 1 hour ago

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. outsells Toyota Motor Corp. in June to retain its traditional U.S. sales lead, even though GM says its sales dropped 18 percent for the month.

Toyota sales had fallen 21.4 percent for the month. Both companies were hurt by a sluggish economy and poor sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles.

GM on Tuesday reported selling 265,937 vehicles for the month, compared with Toyota's 193,234.

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

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

DETROIT (AP) — High gasoline prices and a weak economy took a toll on U.S. sales of Toyota Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. vehicles in June, with Toyota reporting a 21.4 percent decline and Ford dropping 27.9 percent.

Industry analysts had predicted June auto sales could drop by double-digits to their lowest monthly rate in 16 years.

Toyota, however, had been expected to fare better because it has a lineup more tilted toward small fuel-efficient cars and crossover vehicles.

But it didn't. Toyota said Tuesday its car sales dropped 9.4 percent for the month, while its truck sales slipped 38.9 percent. For the first half of the year, Toyota sales were down 6.8 percent.

Ford shares sank to a new 52-week low, while rival General Motors Corp. shares were trading near their lowest level in more than a half century.

Dearborn-based Ford blamed the latest sales decline on high gas prices and low consumer confidence, which sent buyers to the sidelines. It reported steep drops in June sales of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, including a 41 percent year-over-year decline for the F-Series pickup, a perennial best-seller, and a 52 percent drop for the Ford Explorer SUV.

U.S. auto sales had already fallen for seven straight months as of May, the longest period of consecutive monthly drops in eight years, according to the auto information Web site Edmunds.com.

When customers do buy, they're picking smaller cars, crossovers and hybrids. The demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles has been a boon to Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which rely less heavily on trucks and sport utility vehicles than the Detroit Three.

For the first half of the year, Ford's sales were down 14 percent compared with the year-ago period.

Ford said sales of its smallest car, the Ford Focus, rose 28 percent in the first six months of the year, although Focus sales fell in June. The automaker said last month it plans to increase production of the Focus as well as the Mercury Mariner and Ford Escape small SUVs.

Ford shares tumbled 32 cents, or 6.6 percent, to $4.49 in afternoon trading after sinking to a 52-week low of $4.41 earlier in the session. They have traded as high as $9.64 over the past year.

The Associated Press reports unadjusted figures, calculating the percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report percentages adjusted for sales days. There were 24 sales days last month and 27 in June 2007.

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If you HAVE to buy a truck in this market, are you really going to buy an unproven yet fashionable (with the Consumer Reports set) new comer, or a truck that has been kicking ass for over 3 decades?

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I want to see GM dominate (I guess) - but I'm pulling for Ford just as much. Lets hope that their European Focus and Fiesta launch goes well, and that they sell a lot of them. It looks like for Ford, those great little small cars can't come fast enough.

It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next year or so. The bozo's at the top of GM really need to evaluate what they're thinking when it comes to Pontiac (if they're indeed thinking about killing it). They can do a lot with that brand if they put their minds to it. Fuel economy is clearly the future of the auto market - GM could still keep Pontiac and make it hip with the right types of product, without having to kill Pontiac and match up Saturn and Buick (as has been rumored around here). I envision a really nice Pontiac based off the NG Cobalt/Astra with red gauges, distinctive split grille Pontiac styling and I also envision a Firebird version of the Camaro. A Firebird would sell well I think - I know the powers that be aren't in that mindset, but I think a really cool, well made Astra type chassis FWD car with Pontiac styling, the Solstice and a Firebird all have their place next to an Eps. II Buick Regal in a PBGMC showroom a year from now. How cool would that be to see a GM that still goes against the Honda/Toyota grain - offering interesting products at prices that allow a wide range of people the chance to get into. BPGMC can pull this off with the right type of marketing - but I think to market it correctly, it would take some out of the box thinking - the type of thinking that I think GM isn't really used to or up to these days. Here I am, at 33, and I truly feel that a lot of guys my age "get" what Pontiac and Buick can be based on what they were in the 60s/70s heyday better than what GM's 50+ middle management get now.

Alright, I guess I went off topic, but I think a lot of you can relate. GM can dominate with what they have if they put their minds to it - especially with the future product that's coming. I say go crazy and even offer a Pontiac version of the Volt. Why not?

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