Record Hybrid sales put Toyota in top gear

Published April 4, 2007

DETROIT - Toyota's U.S. sales jumped 11.7 percent last month, boosted by record hybrid sales and strong overall car sales, and fellow Japanese automakers Honda and Nissan both reported solid gains Tuesday.

But GM sales fell 4 percent, Ford posted a 9 percent decline and DaimlerChrysler dropped 4.1 percent.

The numbers Tuesday come as the domestic automakers have seen Asian rivals led by Toyota capture growing shares of the U.S. market. But Ford still held off Toyota for the No. 2 U.S. sales spot for the month.

Toyota Motor Corp. sold 242,675 light vehicles in the United States - 140,009 cars, up 19.4 percent from the same month a year ago, and 102,666 trucks, a 2.7 percent increase.

So far this year, Toyota has sold 61,635 hybrids in the United States, up 68 percent from the first three months of last year. That includes 28,453 hybrids last month.

"This month marks a milestone eight years in the making," Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota's U.S. division, said in a statement. "Record U.S. sales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids have now topped the half-million mark."

Ups and downs at GM

Detroit-based General Motors Corp., whose fleet sales dropped for the month as it worked to cut low-profit sales to rental car companies, sold 345,418 light vehicles - 136,866 cars, up 2.3 percent, and 208,552 trucks, down 7.7 percent.

GM said sales of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, GMC Acadia crossover and Saturn Outlook sport utility vehicles were exceeding expectations.

Ford Motor Co. sold 263,684 light vehicles - 174,200 trucks, down 5.9 percent from the same month a year ago, and 89,484 cars, down 14.6 percent. The monthly drop comes as Ford of Dearborn, Mich., also works to reduce fleet sales.

Ford said its new mid-sized cars - including the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ - and its new Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers sold well.

"We remain committed to offering more of the products that our customers really want, and the popularity of our new cars and crossovers is proof we're delivering," Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, said in a statement.

DaimlerChrysler AG sold 228,047 vehicles in the United States last month. Its Chrysler Group's passenger vehicle sales, which include the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, fell 4.6 percent to 206,435.

Chrysler Group said it sold 52,625 cars in March, down 2.6 percent from a year ago, and 153,810 trucks, down 5.3 percent.

Gains for Fusion

At Ford, sales of the Fusion were up 47.5 percent to 15,790 from a year ago. But sales of F-series pickups dropped 15.1 percent to 71,481. Ford said the increasing availability of the 2008 Super Duty should help F-series performance.

Ford's sales include Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, as well as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.

American Honda Motor Co., which includes Honda and Acura brands, said it's on track for another record U.S. sales year. It sold 143,392 light vehicles last month - up 11.3 percent - 80,633 cars, up 12 percent, and 62,759 trucks, up 10.5 percent.

Like Toyota, Honda said it gained in hybrid sales, but credited the overall increase to public perception about fuel-efficiency across its line.

Nissan North America Inc., which includes Nissan and Infiniti, sold 111,119 vehicles last month, up 7.8 percent from March 2006, as car sales jumped 18 percent to 62,251, offsetting a 2.9 percent slide in truck sales to 48,868.