Tuesday, March 4, 2008

US auto sales fall amid economic worries

: US consumers shied away from auto dealerships in February amid rising economic uncertainty which cut deeply into the sales of both the Big Three US automakers and popular Japanese rival Toyota.

Those who did make it into the showroom often sought more fuel-efficient options as sales continued to shift away from trucks and large sport-utility vehicles, giving Japan's Honda Motors an edge with its fleet of fuel-sipping cars.

Honda posted record February sales of 115,397 vehicles yesterday, a 0.7 per cent increase over last year.
Toyota, which posted 12 straight years of record sales growth in the US, has now recorded three straight months of losses as sales fell 6.6 per cent to 182,169 vehicles in February as it failed to maintain momentum.

Toyota, which overtook Ford Motor Co last year for the number two spot in the US market, slipped back behind Ford in February even as the Detroit group reported a decline of 6.9 per cent to 196,681 vehicles.

The losses were felt across all Ford brands and Ford announced plans to trim production by 10 per cent in the second quarter to 730,000 vehicles and cut 2,500 jobs at three US plants as it expands a massive restructuring plan.

"We remain focused on our plan to return the North American automotive business to profitability," Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas said in a statement.

"These actions are necessary as we align our capacity and product mix to meet real customer demand."

General Motors reported a 13 per cent drop in sales to 270,423 vehicles amid "tough market conditions."

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