Despite a strong U.S. economy, climbing gasoline prices were seen as a big reason behind drops in April sales for the Big Three automakers, particularly in sales of trucks. Overall, U.S. sales of cars and light trucks fell 3.7% from April 2005 figures, dropping the seasonally adjusted annualized rate to 16.7 million vehicles, down from 17.2 million a year earlier. DaimlerChrysler's April sales dropped 6.2%, while sales at Ford and General Motors dropped 6.8% and 10.7%, respectively.
Truck categories were hurt the most, particularly at Ford and DaimlerChrysler. Ford Motor Co. told USA Today it blamed high gas prices for the 9.3% drop in sales of its F-150 pickup, the first-ever decline for the nation's best-selling vehicle. Sales of the Ford Explorer, which has been the top-selling SUV in the country, were off a dramatic 42%. At DaimlerChrysler, truck sales were down 18.1%. GM truck sales were saved by a 24% jump in sales for its Chevy Tahoe, but the company's overall sales suffered from a 21% decline in car sales.
By contrast, Toyota continued to build its U.S. market share with a 4.5% increase in April sales, according to Autodata Corp. It marked the first time Toyota beat one of the Big Three, by topping DaimlerChrysler's unit sales for the month, 219,965 to 211,365.