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Old Posted Apr 27, 2007, 10:55 PM
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From: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a.../1002/BUSINESS
Fewer than 50% buy U.S. vehicles
Domestics' retail market share falls
April 14, 2007
Despite a good start to the year by General Motors Corp., fewer than half of American consumers -- 48.9% -- bought new cars and trucks in the first quarter this year from Detroit automakers, according to retail sales data provided exclusively to the Free Press by the Power Information Network.
Retail sales are purchases made directly by consumers in showrooms, and they exclude fleet sales to rental car companies, businesses and governments, which are typically sold in bulk at a discount.

Industry experts view retail sales, which represent about three-fourths of the industry's 17 million sales, as one of the best measures of market demand and the future financial performance of automakers, because they are generally more profitable sales.
The new low point in Detroit's share of the retail market is the result of a long-term consumer move away from their brands that seems to have picked up speed since September, fueled by a housing market slowdown, high oil prices and shaken consumer confidence.
While GM had the strongest quarter among metro Detroit automakers, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG lost important retail market share to foreign competitors -- led by Toyota Motor Corp., which managed to drop its incentives to below $1,000 per vehicle on average and still snap up a substantial number of new customers.
To be sure, this is not the first time that Detroit automakers have dipped below the 50% mark in retail sales. But if the trend continues, this might be the first full year that non-U.S. automakers take the majority of the U.S. auto market.
"I think, in the near term, both Chrysler and Ford will continue to lose share, and that aggregate loss will more than offset any possible gain by GM," said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis at PIN, a subsidiary of J.D. Power and Associates.
"I don't expect the domestics' share to move back up above 50% this year."
Still, the performance of GM shows arguable improvement. The world's largest automaker is stabilizing its retail performance, despite slashing its cash-back rebates and other discounts by an average of $500 per vehicle.
Automakers don't typically provide detailed information to the public on their retail sales, so PIN compiles estimates with sales information collected from more than 7,000 dealerships, which represent one-fourth of all retail sales.
Mark LaNeve, vice president of sales, service and marketing for GM North America, said GM's performance is better than the PIN estimate suggests. LaNeve said retail sales at GM were up half a percentage point in the first quarter. That performance, he said, likely will translate to a nearly flat retail market share because industry-wide retail sales are up an estimated 0.7%.
"We know our numbers for a fact," LaNeve said. "It was the first quarterly increase we've had in probably 18 months or so, and we think we held our own in a pretty tough market."
Although the numbers at Ford and Chrysler weren't nearly as encouraging, they're not giving up.
"It's still very early in the calendar year," Steven Landry, vice president of sales and field operations for the Auburn Hills-based Chrysler Group, said in an interview Thursday. "I think it's presumptuous to think that, as a group, we may finish below 50%."
Downward trend
Although Detroit could make a comeback, the domestic retail sales performance has been consistently on the decline for some time.
In 2005, Detroit's automakers had 54.5% of the retail market. By the end of last year, that had edged down to 50.1%.
Now, Detroit is down to 48.9%. That's a 1.2-percentage-point decline from the fourth quarter of 2006, and it's an even larger 2.1-percentage-point decline from the first quarter of last year.
These declines, measured to the tenths of a percentage point, might not seem like much. But each point of retail share keeps about one half of an assembly plant running.
Libby said even a half of a percentage point is considered an admirable gain in today's marketplace and a full percentage point is like "a huge mountain."
And Detroit, despite its best efforts, continues to lose mountains.
Behind the power shift
Ultimately, sales trends at just two automakers -- Toyota and Ford -- explain most of the power shift this year.
While most of the major automakers gained or lost a half percentage point of market share or less, Ford lost a full 1.1 percentage points and Toyota gained 1 percentage point.
Those numbers reveal just how tough the situation has become at Ford.
That's because the Dearborn-based automaker simultaneously increased its incentives, such as cash-back rebates and other discounts, by 44.6% or $1,342 per vehicle, during the period, to an average of $4,350 per vehicle, according to Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, N.J. Usually, big discounts such as those encourage consumers to shop and buy more. George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst, said that Ford's declines, if they continue, could have implications for the company's turnaround plans, which already have called for shuttering 16 plants and eliminating 44,000 jobs.
"We know that one of the key assumptions in the Way Forward plan is to stabilize our retail market share," he said. "If we don't, then we maybe haven't gone far enough on our cost reduction."
That said, Ford's retail market share numbers provided by PIN include all of the company's six major brands, such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, all of which have posted sales declines this year. But the company's Way Forward plan is based primarily on Ford's domestic Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands.
Pipas said the number for those three brands has held steady at about 13% of U.S. sales. So that would support Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally's recent comments to reporters at the New York auto show last week that "we are stabilizing our market share."
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Old Posted Apr 27, 2007, 10:56 PM
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From: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/04/...ess/toyota.php
Toyota ends GM's reign as leader in global sales

By Keith Bradsher
Published: April 24, 2007

HONG KONG: Toyota surpassed General Motors in worldwide vehicle sales during the first three months of this year, marking the end of one of the longest runs of dominance in all of global industry and another milestone in America's long decline from unchallenged industrial pre-eminence.

Toyota announced Tuesday that its worldwide sales reached 2.35 million cars and trucks in the first quarter; GM had previously announced that its sales totaled 2.26 million in the first quarter.

GM swept past Ford Motor in 1931 in the enormous U.S. market and in worldwide sales, and barely looked back for seven decades. But a combination of inattention to quality, poor labor relations, adverse regulatory decisions and a slowness to recognize the potential for small cars eroded GM's seemingly insurmountable lead starting in the mid-1960s.

Emerging from the ashes of Japan's defeat in World War II partly thanks to U.S. assistance during the Korean War, Toyota established itself through the 1970s and 1980s as the industry standard for quality and reliability. It has since built a reputation for technological leadership as well, most notably with the Prius and other hybrid cars.

Toyota took the worldwide lead in the first quarter as it stepped up sales in every major market. GM continued to gain market share in China, but is struggling in the United States and Europe and has never been able to gain a firm foothold in the Japanese market.

GM and Toyota spokesmen were equally reluctant Tuesday to portray themselves as engaged in a global car race for leadership. GM has been trying to emphasize its future as an international automaker - three-fifths of its sales are now outside the United States - and not on the greatness of its past.

"We're focused on providing the best cars and trucks for our customers all around the world," said John McDonald, a GM spokesman in Detroit. "We're not focused on a race."

Toyota has been leery of the attention, and often the criticism, that frequently come with being the biggest in any industry. It has frequently been the main target of trade restrictions in the United States and Europe, and this has made the company cautious of being seen as too large or too aggressive.

"We look at the results as simply a reflection of how our products are viewed favorably around the world," said Paul Nolasco, a company spokesman in Tokyo. "We don't just make them and push them out the door - we have a 'pull' system and we build them when they are ordered."

Industry analysts were bolder. "It is a historic moment" for Toyota, said Benjamin Asher of Automotive Resources Asia, which was acquired last year by J.D. Power & Associates. "Everyone was expecting it to assume the number one position, the question was when."

Yale Zhang, the director of greater-China vehicle forecasts for CSM Worldwide, an automotive consulting firm, said that while Toyota lags behind Volkswagen and GM in the fast-growing Chinese market now, it is on track to pull into the lead in 2013.

Toyota has trailed mainly because it has been slow to enter some segments of the market in China, as Chinese officials were wary of granting permission for Toyota to build factories in the 1990s given decades of Sino-Japanese rivalry. But Toyota is now expanding swiftly.

"It's pretty easy for Toyota in China given Toyota's brand image, the quality and the design of the cars," Zhang said.

General Motors has ruled the auto industry for so long that statisticians had difficulty figuring out the precise quarters in which it last trailed another automaker. Comparing automakers' worldwide sales on anything less than an annual basis is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Ford opened its first plant outside North America in England in 1911, while GM expanded aggressively in the European market in the 1920s. But automakers had typically eschewed worldwide sales announcements until the last few years, announcing monthly and quarterly sales separately in each country instead.

This has changed as the Internet has improved communications and as automakers have begun forcing their far-flung operations to work closely together, instead of functioning as a series of separate fiefdoms.

Ford briefly overtook GM in American sales in July 1998, when a strike lasting nearly eight weeks at two GM parts factories in Flint, Michigan, triggered the shutdown of almost all of GM's assembly plants across North America. Ford also outpaced GM briefly in the autumn of 1970, when a 10-week national strike crippled GM's operations.
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Old Posted Apr 27, 2007, 10:59 PM
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From: http://www.forbes.com/home/business/..._0426cars.html
Can Detroit Accelerate?

Tom Van Riper, 04.26.07, 6:00 AM ET
First, Toyota passes General Motors as the top selling car company in the world. Then, Honda announces a quarterly profit on Wednesday that blew away the numbers expected from Ford a day later. It all makes for a dour mood in Detroit, where losses, layoffs and restructuring plans have become the order of the day.

But while there's more pain to come, don't necessarily bet long term on GM (nyse: GM - news - people ), Ford (nyse: F - news - people ) and Chrysler to go down meekly before their Asian counterparts. Detroit's product mix, which got slammed in the face of rising gas prices a couple of years ago, is steadily growing more competitive. And while there's still a lot of work to do on the cost cutting front to get out from under piles of long-term obligations, there are at least signs of progress. Over 30,000 GM workers have accepted buyout offers from the company as it attempts to downsize it reflect the market share reality of the global marketplace.

"Yes, it's possible," says auto analyst David Healey of Burnham Securities on whether GM could outperform Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) as a five-year investment.

"Toyota has been a terrific stock, doubling in value [since late 2003]. It's got to slow down some.... GM has been making progress on its legacy costs, though more needs to be done," he says.

After losing a combined $12 billion in 2005 and 2006, General Motors reported a 5.5% drop in sales for this year's first quarter. Ford, when it reports on Thursday, is expected to report a first-quarter loss of 60 cents a share, or 35 cents after one-time items, following $12.6 billion in losses last year. Meanwhile, Honda (nyse: HMC - news - people ) continued its roll in the first quarter, announcing a 9% jump in revenue to $26 billion, even as profit slipped 20% from last year due to the elimination of a pension reimbursement from the Japanese government that it counted on its books in 2006.

Still, investors have at least shown some willingness to give the top two U.S. automakers some rope as they execute their turnaround plans, bidding shares up in recent months. GM shares have risen to $30 from $19 since early last year. Ford's stock, while it's worth half what is was five years ago, has quietly crept up 27% since last June.

Most encouraging for the Big 3 is that their Asian rivals, while on a relative roll in recent years, are hardly invulnerable. Nissan (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ), after a nice surge of popular new vehicles a few years ago, has not had a hit in quite awhile. The company, which reports earnings along with Ford on Thursday, cut production 10% in March while announcing 1,500 layoffs.

Honda, which increased production in March while raising units sales 6.2% during the last quarter, is benefiting from a consumer trend toward fuel efficiency and environmental concerns over the past couple of years. But its product lineup, while solid, is not exactly exciting. Analysts point out that the company is not particularly competitive in the pickup and SUV markets, which are still important high margin vehicles even with unit volumes well below the peaks of a few years ago. And the trend of fuel efficiency and hybrid engines it's been cashing in recently may prove to be just that--a trend.

"That's the market coming to them," says Kevin Tynan, an analyst at Argus Research. "For what it does, Honda's portfolio is good. But as a growth driver it's not."

Toyota, which enjoyed a robust 11% jump in sales last quarter as it sprinted past GM, still dropped output by 1% in March. The company has expressed some caution going forward, voicing concern that a more competitive pickup truck market could crimp ambitious sales goals for the Toyota Tundra. Also, its manufacturing costs are rising in the U.S. And that's where politics potentially come in.

The Democrats who now run congress have historically been friendlier to Japanese carmakers that invest in factories in the U.S. rather than export vehicles from overseas, because it means American factory jobs. So Toyota and Honda may have to live with those rising production costs--the alternative is to risk trade restrictions if they try to produce more back home and ship cars to North America.

Meanwhile, Ford's redesigned F-Series pickups are expected to compete strongly with the Tundra. And after exiting the minivan market, the company has enjoyed some initial success with its Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, a growing segment. General Motors, Healey reports, is accelerating the redesign of its large SUVs, sharply improving their production, sales rates and pricing in the first half of last year. The company is also quietly eliminating low margin cars that it's been selling to rental fleets. The lineup at Chrysler, where employees sit and await a likely sale from parent DaimlerChrysler (nyse: DCX - news - people ), still seems a bit "truck heavy," according to Tynan, though its leadership in minivans should benefit from the decision by Ford and GM to get out of the segment.

And the Big 3 are finally seeing some benefits from rising prices, as they wean consumers off the heavy discounts of a couple of years ago.

For sure, the clock is ticking in Detroit as its automakers scramble to get their financial houses in order. But unlike the past, when each company got SUV-happy during $12-a-barrel oil, the cars and trucks rolling out of the factories now better reflect the diverse tastes of the marketplace. Plus, their backs are really against the wall this time.

"If this latest restructuring round isn't successful, it won't be five years before something dramatic happens," Tynan says.
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Old Posted Jun 13, 2007, 1:43 AM
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From: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070612/...bF9JIBADuyBhIF
Toyota surpassed GM as top carmaker in 2006: journal
Tue Jun 12, 5:28 AM ET
Was it 2006 or 2007?

The milestone that the global auto industry has been holding its collective breath for -- Toyota Motor Corp.'s (7203.T) unseating General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news) as the world's biggest carmaker -- came last year instead of in 2007 as many had expected, according to a leading industry journal.

Detroit-based weekly Automotive News, whose data centre publishes a widely quoted ranking of the world's automakers around this time every year, said Japan's top carmaker outsold GM by about 128,000 units last year based on a technicality that excludes sales of vehicles at minority-held subsidiaries.

"A little-known Chinese microvan played a role in Toyota's victory," the magazine, published by Crain Communications, said on its website.

In its final tally for 2006, GM included the seven-seat microvan and other Wuling-brand vehicles built by a three-way venture with China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC) and Liuzhou Wuling Automobile even though it owns less than half of the company, the journal said.

Automotive News credited 51 percent-owner SAIC for the 420,140 units the venture sold in 2006, putting GM's global sales at 8,679,860 units in 2006, against 8,808,000 for Toyota.

In its ranking, Automotive News Data Center includes sales of a subsidiary in the total for the parent company with the majority stake.

GM, which is in the throes of sweeping restructuring but is growing rapidly in China, has claimed the top spot for 76 years, including 2006.

In April, Toyota and GM announced sales figures for the first quarter of 2007 which showed the Japanese automaker edging past its U.S. rival by 90,000 units. The news prompted extensive media coverage as the first time ever for the switch at the top.

Toyota's figures, which correspond with Automotive News' tally, include sales at units Daihatsu Motor Co. (7262.T) and Hino Motors Ltd. (7205.T). GM's comprises a dozen brands, including Chevrolet, Buick, Opel and Saab.

Toyota is almost certain to take the lead for all of 2007 even by GM's count after it projected sales of 9.34 million units against the U.S. giant's forecast for 9.2 million.
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Old Posted Sep 4, 2007, 4:28 AM
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GM Crossover Trio Lures Drivers Away From Asian-Brand Vehicles
Offerings Are Bright Spot
Amid U.S. Sales Decline;
Dealers Can't Get Enough

September 4, 2007; Page A3

General Motors Corp. is struggling to halt declining U.S. sales, but it has a bright spot in the three large crossover vehicles it launched in the past year.

The Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook each have three rows of seats and look like big sport-utility vehicles, but they are lighter, have a smoother ride and get better gas mileage than SUVs. Made from many of the same parts, all three are selling briskly and have a GM plant in Lansing, Mich., running at full capacity, a key to profitable auto production.

More importantly, the trio is doing something few other Detroit vehicles can achieve these days -- they are pulling drivers from import brands.

Luring drivers of foreign brands back to domestic vehicles is a critical task for all three Detroit auto makers as they scramble to turn around their North American operations and stem their decades-long slide in market share. Fresh evidence of their troubles is due today in August vehicle-sales reports, which are expected to show continuing weakness for both foreign and domestic manufacturers.

Brian MacDonald is one driver attracted by GM's new crossovers. An investment-fund manager in California, Mr. MacDonald has driven nothing but BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes for the past 20 years. But last month, with the lease on his Mercedes ML-Class winding down, Mr. MacDonald leased a $45,000 Enclave, the most luxurious of GM's three models.

"If someone had told me a few months ago I'd be driving a Buick, my reaction would have been 'no way, no how,' " says Mr. MacDonald, 46 years old. The Enclave, he said, offers the roominess to haul around his three young children and the styling and interior comforts he was accustomed to with the Mercedes. Because the Mercedes ML sells for about $30,000 more than the Enclave, his monthly payment on the Buick was almost $300 lower.

GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC remain the dominant manufacturers of trucks, but sales of pickups and SUVs have been falling amid high gasoline prices and changing consumer tastes. With more and more consumers moving to passenger cars and crossovers, the Big Three have to step up their competitiveness in these segments or their turnaround efforts could be squeezed for cash.

But it is an uphill battle. About two-thirds of the vehicles GM sells through its dealerships go to customers who trade in GM vehicles, according to data from the Power Information Network, a division of J.D. Power & Associates. Only a fraction -- less than 3% -- go to people trading in vehicles made by Toyota Motor Corp. or Honda Motor Co.

The three new crossovers do much better. Half of all Acadias and Outlooks go to customers who trade in GM vehicles; about 20% go to people trading Asian-brand vehicles. For the Enclave, the numbers are slightly lower but still better: 44% of all trade-ins are non-GM brands; 14% of the trade-ins are Asian vehicles.

GM doesn't disclose profit margins of its vehicles, but other measures indicate the three crossovers are performing well financially. The company just added a third shift at the Michigan plant producing the vehicles, at a time when GM is trimming production of its full-size SUVs and pickup trucks.

Dealers say they can't get enough Acadias and Enclaves. "We're selling them as soon as they come off the truck," said Dan Marquardt, owner of Barrington Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Barrington, Ill.

At the end of July, GM had enough cars and trucks in inventory to last 70 days. But it had only a 22-day supply of Enclaves, a 32-day supply of Acadias and a 51-day supply of Outlooks.

Such tight supplies cut the need for sales incentives. "We're getting full price," Mr. Marquardt said.

It will be a challenge for GM to keep the three crossovers in this position. A Chevrolet version is in the works, and could skim buyers from the Buick, GMC and Saturn models. The Chevy model will be built in a different plant in Spring Hill, Tenn.

Last edited by James Bond Agent 007; Sep 4, 2007 at 5:40 AM.
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Old Posted Sep 12, 2007, 11:51 PM
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Originally Posted by TexasStar View Post
It truly distresses me to see the number of Americans driving down the road in rice-burners.
I'd consider that term to be borderline racist. I guess that mods don't agree.
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