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Toyota posts its best sales month

Toyota posts its best sales month
Ford sales drop 9%, Chrysler's 5%, GM's 4.2% in March
April 3, 2007

By SARAH A. WEBSTER, JOE GUY COLLIER AND KATIE MERX

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITERS

Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. sales rose 11.7% in March to 242,675 vehicles, the best month ever for the Japanese automaker.

Sales of the Camry rose 8.4% to 42,254 units. The Prius hybrid was up 141.8% to 19,156, its best all-time month.

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“This month marks a milestone eight years in the making,” said Jim Lentz, Toyota Motors Sales executive vice president, in a press statement. “Record U.S. sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids have now topped the half-million mark.”

Toyota also saw an increase in sales for the new Tundra, which was launched in February as the company’s first true full-size truck. The previous Tundra was slightly smaller than a full-size truck. Tundra sales rose 11.8% in March to 13,196 vehicles.

Ford sales dip

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. sales fell 9% in March - and all of the company's six brands, excluding Lincoln, posted a sales decline for the month.

Sales for Ford's Lincoln brand, on the strength of the MKZ sedan previously called the Zephyr, bounced 9.8% in the month.

DaimlerChrysler down

New car and truck sales for the Auburn Hills-based Chrysler Group fell 5% in March compared to the same month a year ago, dragging down results for the parent DaimlerChrysler AG.

GM down 4.2% in March

General Motors Corp. reports that its March U.S. sales fell 4.2% to 349,867 vehicles in March, compared with 365,375 a year ago. GM said most of the decline was due to a planned reduction in daily rental fleet sales. GM’s March U.S. retail sales were down 2.8% compared with March 2006.

Car sales for Dearborn-based Ford fell 14.6%, despite an impressive month for the Fusion, whose sales were up 47.5% compared to last March.

Sales of more profitable trucks, meanwhile, fell 5.8%. The F-Series, which represents about one-third of the company's sales volume, dropped 15.1%, although Ford noted that the 71,481 sales are the highest monthly sales tally since August 2006.

George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst, said he believes that Ford's conflict with Navistar over the company's 6.4-liter diesel engine might hurt sales of the Super Duty pickup truck through April.

“I think it will,” he said, noting that current inventory of the Super Duty is tight.

Ford and Navistar are in a dispute over warranty costs and Navistar has been ordered by an Oakland County Circuit Court judge to continue supplying Ford with the engine until the matter can be resolved.

Super Duty sales represent about 40% of sales in Ford's F-Series franchise.

At DaimlerChrsyler, the Mercedes unit posted a 0.9% gain in the month and sales for the luxury brand are now up 9.3% for the year.

The Chrysler Group sold 206,435 vehicles in the United States in March, down 5% from the same month a year ago.

Chrysler, which sells vehicles under the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, said its new Dodge Nitro and restyled Jeep Wrangler, which now comes in both two- and four-door versions, were highlights for the month. The company sold 7,532 of the Nitro mid-sized SUV and 13,397 Wranglers.

Chrysler’s German parent, DaimlerChrysler AG, reported total sales of 228,047 in March, down 4% compared with March 2006.

Mercedes Benz USA sold 21,612 vehicles in March, up 1% from the same month last year.

Detailed vehicle sales for DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. sales will be released in a conference call this afternoon.

DaimlerChrysler AG is in the process of shopping for a buyer for the Chrysler division and is expected to provide an update on the process tomorrow at its annual shareholders’ meeting in Berlin.

Contact SARAH A. WEBSTER at 313-222-5394 or [email protected].
 
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