CHICAGO (AFP) - Asian automakers continued to eat away at the US market
share of the top American car companies even as the Big Three's US
sales rose overall in January, according to sales figures.
Struggling Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corp posted their
first monthly sales gains since they ended popular employee discount
programs in August.
But they were unable to reverse a downward trend in market share that
contributed to massive financial losses and plans to layoff a combined
60,000 workers in the next two years.
DaimlerChrysler also posted its first monthly sales increase since
September, although it is in better shape after having managed to
increase its market share in 2005 to 19.2 percent from 18.6 percent in
The Big Three domestic automakers saw their overall market share fall
to 55.7 percent of the massive US market from 57.3 percent in January
2005, according to Autodata.
Asian brands saw market share increase to 37.5 percent from 36.3
percent a year ago.
European brands saw moderate growth, gaining 6.8 percent of the market
in January compared with 6.5 percent a year ago.
Overall sales rose 7.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of
17.64 million units compared with 16.34 million units last January,
according to Autodata.
"January auto sales were clearly much better than expected," said
Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital. "We are on a
pace to see a month-to-month increase in the seasonally adjusted sales
pace, perhaps to around 17.7 million units or so."
Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had expected a seasonally
adjusted annual sales rate, on average, of 16.5 million vehicles. Wall
Street had previously forecast a sales decline at all three of the
major domestic manufacturers.
January's sales gains among domestic automakers were largely a result
of fleet sales to bulk buyers like rental car agencies and the
government, which do not pay as much as retail customers.
Ford estimated that the sales increase of about 65,000 vehicles for all
automakers in January was comprised of about 55,000 vehicles sold to
GM said its retail sales dropped seven percent in January but it was
able to post a six percent increase overall due to fleet sales which
accounted for 30 percent of the vehicles it sold.
GM said Wednesday it hoped to see an improvement in sales in the second
quarter of this year with the introduction of a new line of
Those hopes were bolstered with the strong welcome the new Chevy Tahoe
received: sales rose 53 percent to 13,093 vehicles in January.
"We had solid results in January and showed some very encouraging
pockets of strength," Mark LaNeve, General Motors North America vice
president of vehicle sales, service and marketing, said in a statement.
Total GM sales reached 296,003 vehicles with car sales up 14.6 percent
to 134,467 and truck sales down 0.5 percent to 161,536 compared with
But a senior executive at Ford said the bet GM is placing on large SUVs
is risky as he expects sales of full-sized SUVs -- which fell 19
percent last year -- to continue to decline to an end-decade level of
650,000 to 700,000 units sold per year, compared to 800,000 in 2005.
"We're down to the core SUV buyer who needs the capabilities of that
product," George Pippas, Ford's sales analysis manager, said in a
conference call. "The rate at which it declines probably has most to do
with gas prices."
Ford's sales rose two percent to 205,671 vehicles in January as
better-than-expected car sales offset sales losses of SUVs.
DaimlerChrysler meanwhile saw a five-percent increase in January with
total US sales reaching 167,934 compared with 160,212 in January 2005.
Of the Asian brands, American Honda Motor Company posted the strongest
gains, with sales up 20.7 percent to 98,394 vehicles.
Toyota Motor Sales USA reported its best-ever January sales, up 14
percent to 160,625 vehicles.
Korean automaker Hyundai Motor America saw sales climb 16.1 percent to
Nissan North America was the only Asian automaker to post a loss, with
January sales down 0.9 percent to 75,891 vehicles.