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U.S. sales rise 5.0 percent as Toyota passes Ford for No. 2

From Automotive News| June 04,2007

Most automakers saw their U.S. sales grow in May -- and it was a very good month for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., which set a monthly sales record and finished behind General Motors as the second-ranked automaker for the month.

Toyota Motor Sales' big month pushed it past Ford Motor Co., which was one of only three automakers to post a sales decline in May. And after five months, Toyota was only 40,024 units behind Ford Motor in total U.S. sales for the year.

U.S. auto sales totaled 1,564,170 units in May, up 5.0 percent from a year ago. For the first five months of the year, U.S. auto sales totaled 6,791,960 units, down 1.2 percent from the same period last year.

The top 6

A look at the top six automakers for the month:

General Motors' U.S. sales, including those of Saab, rose 9.6 percent in May from a year earlier. The automaker cited a rise in sales of full-sized pickups and the popularity of its three new crossovers, the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

GM cut its forecast for industrywide sales this year but said retail sales likely had stabilized after a weak spring. GM forecast U.S. light-vehicle sales of less than 16.5 million units in 2007.

For the first five months of the year, GM's U.S. sales were down 3.2 percent from a year ago, to 1,577,053 units.

May set a high-water mark for Toyota Motor Sales. It was the best monthly performance in the automaker's 50-year history in the United States, with 269,023 units sold, up 14.1 percent from a year earlier.

Combined Toyota/Scion/Lexus sales in May topped Ford Motor in the United States by 10,754 units.

"As fuel prices and consumer confidence rose, the industry saw a move to passenger cars, with retail business posting sharp gains over a very challenging April," said Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales' U.S. executive vice president.

For the year to date, Toyota Motor Sales' U.S. sales rose 8.5 percent from a year ago to 1,085,335 units.

Ford Motor's U.S. sales dropped 6.9 percent in May from a year earlier, as pickup and SUV sales continued to fall. Also, the automaker got hit by falling sales of the Ford Five Hundred sedan, which is being rebranded as the Taurus for the 2008 model year.

Ford Motor's U.S. sales - including Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo - totaled 258,269 units in May. For the year to date, Ford's U.S. sales were down 11.8 percent from the same period a year ago.

Ford said May retail or showroom sales were 3 percent lower than in May 2006. While the company's truck sales were flat, demand for its best-selling and high-margin F-series pickups fell 11.7 percent. Earlier this week, the company had forecast a slight increase in retail sales for May.

DaimlerChrysler's U.S. sales -- including Mercedes-Benz and the Chrysler group -- totaled 221,183 units in May, up 3.9 percent from a year earlier. For the year to date, DaimlerChrysler's U.S. sales were down 0.9 percent from a year earlier to 1,028,492 units.

Mercedes-Benz USA LLC said its U.S. sales in May set a record for the month.

The Chrysler group also posted higher sales for May, even though sales of its Dodge and Chrysler minivans fell. The automaker is winding down production to change over to redesigned 2008 models.

"We're in great shape selling down the old minivan in preparation for the new minivan," said Michael Keegan, vice president of volume planning and sales operations for the Chrysler group.

American Honda Motor Co. said its U.S. sales in May set a record for the month for the automaker and Honda Division. American Honda's sales were 145,367 units in May, up 2.5 percent from a year earlier.

For the year to date, American Honda's U.S. sales were up 1.8 percent from last year to 625,994 units.

Honda said sales of the Honda Civic and Fit set monthly records in May, and the CR-V SUV had its best May ever. "Small is big right now," said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda. "Smaller vehicles have become more attractive for multiple reasons and we expect this trend to continue for the time being."

Smaller vehicles were also a big seller for Nissan North America in May. The automaker's U.S. sales totaled 93,062 units for the month, up 7.4 percent from May 2006.

Nissan Division posted higher monthly sales of the Sentra and Altima sedans and sold 9,039 units of the Versa small car. Infiniti got a boost from a 29.0 percent jump in sales of the G35 sedan, including the redesigned version.

Nissan U.S. sales chief Brad Bradshaw said high gasoline prices have dampened demand for fuel-thirsty SUVs and many consumers appear to be shifting out of larger sedans to smaller cars.

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