Toyota Tops Domestic Automakers...Again

Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) trounced the domestic automakers in the U.S. marketplace last month, posting a 25 percent year-over-year sales increase. General Motors Corp. (GM) and DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) each saw their sales slip by a few percentages points, while Ford Motor Co.'s (F) sales gained 4.7 percent.

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GM's sales fell 3.1 percent last month, but the nation's largest automaker put a positive spin on the decline, attributing it to a reduction in low-margin sales to rental companies. The company's car sales fell 6.4 percent, while trucks, including pickups and sport utility vehicles, were down 0.7 percent. The numbers include the European Saab brand.

DaimlerChrysler said its overall decrease of 2.3 percent stemmed mostly from its U.S. subsidiary, Chrysler Group, where sales fell 3.8 percent. Sales of Mercedes-Benz vehicles rose 13.2 percent. The automaker was to release more detailed numbers later in the afternoon.

Ford's increase over the same month last year was fueled largely by car sales, which rose 26.2 percent, while its truck sales fell 5.5 percent. The figures are for all Ford brands, including Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover.

Toyota's car sales rose 18.4 percent, while truck sales soared 34.9 percent, the Japanese automaker reported Tuesday.

"While crossovers, hybrids and small cars continue to show strength, our SUVs and full-size trucks also posted solid gains," Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, said in a statement. "It's the breadth of our lineup that enables us to satisfy today's buyers."

GM said its September sales were in line with expectations and predicted good results going forward, thanks to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Having products like the Chevrolet Cobalt, Malibu and newly redesigned 2007 Aveo in such high demand in the market place is gratifying," Mark LaNeve, vice president for sales, service and marketing, said in a statement. "We will go even further for the 2007 model year by increasing the number of fuel-sipping vehicle models in the `30 mpg or Over Club' by 9 vehicles, or more than 60 percent, to 23 models."

While the news was good for Ford, Tuesday's numbers don't necessarily signal a turnaround for the struggling automaker. Ford had relatively low sales in September 2005 following high summer sales fueled by deep discounts and a surge in September gas prices after Hurricane Katrina struck.

Ford said demand for its midsized cars, the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ, and for the Mustang, remained strong and sales of the F-Series pickup and Explorer and Expedition sport utility vehicles all showed higher sales compared with September 2005.

The midsized cars were not offered in September of last year, and Mustang sales were up 31 percent, the company said.

GM's shares fell 16 cents to $33.34 in afternoon trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Ford's shares rose 12 cents to $8.25, and DaimlerChrysler's U.S. shares fell 2 cents to $49.97.

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