Ford and GM released December sales data Wednesday, with both showing significant declines, while Toyota posted its best-ever overall sales month.Ford’s December sales were 233,621, a 13 percent decrease from December 2005. For the year, Ford’s 2006 sales were down 8 percent to 2.9 million. Meanwhile, GM reported 341,327 units for December, down 9.6 percent from December 2005 and much worse than anticipated, and 2006 sales of 4.1 million, down 9 percent from 2005.
Ford’s popular F-Series sales had dropped 21 percent versus December 2005, but car sales were 5 percent higher than last year, due to higher gas prices, weaker housing industry and the consumer shift away from SUVs and trucks.
“This year-over-year decline is not a surprise. The drop of approximately 400,000 units is largely attributed to the production cuts that the domestics announced at the beginning of the year,” said Jesse Toprak, Executive Director of Industry Analysis for Edmunds.com. “We didn’t expect an increase in sales for the year since the cost of gasoline and other economic trends made many people hesitate before buying a new car in 2006.”
Edmunds.com had predicted GM would dip 1.5 percent with 365,000 units and Ford would slide 16.5 percent from December 2005 with 210,000 new vehicle sales.
Edmunds.com also predicted that with 1.38 million units, the industry as a whole would be down 6.2 percent from last December, but that Toyota would increase sales 11.4 percent.
In July and November 2006, Toyota had surpassed Ford’s U.S. sales and may do so in 2007. Toyota December sales were 228,322 units, up 16.6 percent over December 2005. Toyota's 2006 sales were 2,542,524, 12.9 percent higher than last year."2006 was a respectable year for the industry if you consider the strain of erratic fuel prices and a housing bubble on an industry weaning itself from incentives," said Toyota Motor Sales Executive Vice President Jim Lentz. For 2007, Toyota set a 9.42 million overall vehicle target, which could potentially push them into the top slot over GM. GM had lowered its North American target for the first quarter 2007 by 20,000 to 1.12 million. Edmunds.com had predicted a drop in the U.S. market share for Chrysler, Ford and GM to 54.3 percent for December. Although it is above November’s 53.2, it is behind the 56.6 percent of December 2005.
“For 2007, we’ll continue our plans to stabilize retail volume, improve our mix, reduce sales to the daily rental market, exercise strategic and tactical incentive programs and strengthen average transaction prices,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president, GM North American Sales, Service and Marketing.
The Detroit automakers are planning to debut new models that they hope will attract more consumers. Ford’s Volvo brand will unveil its new XC60 and GM will debut its new 2008 Chevy Malibu, and four concepts - the Holden EFIJY, the Chevrolet T2X, the Chevrolet WTCC Ultra and the Opel Antara GTC- will also make their North American debut at the 2007 North American International Auto Show.
“We are obviously competing in a fiercely contested global marketplace,” LaNeve said. “We’re optimistic that our newest generation of products will continue to drive revenue growth and brand image.”