DETROIT – Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) took the No. 2 spot in the U.S. market in November from Ford Motor Co. (TM), which saw sales tumble by a steeper-than-expected 10 percent and slashed its production outlook, according to sales data released Friday.
But larger rival General Motors Corp. (GM) reported a 6 percent rise in sales, while Chrysler Group (DCX) posted a 3 percent increase, breaking a nine-month losing streak and beating analysts' expectations for a slight drop.
Nissan Motor Co.'s sales fell 1.6 percent as weak interest in its trucks offset strong demand for its sedans.
Toyota said its U.S. November sales rose 15.9 percent as it continued to take market share from its Detroit-based rivals.
The world's No. 2 automaker by output said it had sold 196,695 vehicles in the United States in November, compared with 182,259 sold by Ford.
"We're focused on returning our business to profitability in North America, full stop," Ford Chief Internal Sales analyst George Pipas said when asked about its drop in the rankings. "I wouldn't want to comment on sales rankings ... It's just not that important right now."
The company said car sales were down 3 percent, mostly due to lower demand from fleet customers, while truck sales were off 13 percent. Ford's retail sales of cars and light trucks fell 7 percent.
Pipas said the fall in showroom sales was "disappointing."
In a bright spot, the sales of Ford's new Expedition SUVs were up 14 percent and Navigator SUV sales rose 65 percent.
Ford cut fourth-quarter production further by 15,000 to 620,000 vehicles, down nearly 22 percent from 790,000 produced a year ago, because of a temporary suspension of production of its Freestar minivan.
The company expects first-quarter 2007 production to be down 14 percent to 750,000 vehicles. Ford had said earlier that production in the first half of 2007 would be between 8 percent and 12 percent lower than the first half of 2006.
"The first quarter 2007 plan is consistent with the high end of this range," the company said in a statement.
Industrywide, new U.S vehicle sales for November are now expected reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.1 million vehicles, JP Morgan analyst Himanshu Patel said.
That would compare with last November's 16-million-vehicle rate and the 16.1-million rate posted in October.
GM, Ford and Chrysler are all losing money, cutting jobs and production. The Big Three Detroit automakers also have been struggling to manage inventories. The problem is most acute for Chrysler, which is working to eliminate unaccounted-for, unsold inventory.
GM and Ford have launched year-end incentives to boost demand. Both programs, which run through Jan. 2, offer cash incentives, while Ford's also includes interest-free financing for up to 60 months on some 2006 vehicles.
GM and Ford both cut incentives spending in November, while Chrysler increased its discount offerings by $88 to $4,224 per vehicle, according to an analysis by auto tracking Web site Edmunds.com.
Ford spent $3,326 in incentives per vehicle, while GM spent $2,539 per vehicle, Edmunds.com said Friday.
Nissan North America's sales chief, Brad Bradshaw, said its trucks fared poorly because it refused to participate in the kind of incentives domestic automakers are putting on big trucks.
"That's just not something we are going to do," he said.