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Detroit Big Three and Toyota post double-digit March sales drops
Detroit's Big Three automakers and Toyota all posted double-digit U.S. sales declines in March, mostly on sliding demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles.

General Motors Corp. said it delivered 282,732 vehicles in the month, down 19.1 percent from 349,866 a year ago. Hardest-hit were full-sized trucks, offset by demand for smaller sedans, crossovers and the popular Cadillac CTS.

Chrysler LLC sold 166,386 units in March, down 19.4 percent from 206,435 in 2006. The Chrysler Sebring, Jeep Compass and Dodge avenger bucked the trend, posting increased sales for the month.

At Ford Motor Co., sales for the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands totaled 213,074, down 14.4 percent compared with March of 2007. Retail sales were down even more, dropping 17 percent. Demand for the automaker's European luxury brands, which include Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, fell 14.3 percent. Overall, Ford sales were down 14.3 percent.

"This is a very challenging external environment, reflecting a seismic shift in consumer preferences," said Ford's sales and marketing chief, Jim Farley. "These conditions will likely persist in the near future. At Ford, we remain focused on executing our plan, which includes being profitable at lower volume and changed mix. It is crucial we continue to employ a disciplined process to gauge demand and plan production on a segment-by-segment and region-by-region basis."

All of the domestic automakers attributed part of their sales decline to their strategic withdrawal from sales to daily rental car fleets.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. reported a 10.2 percent drop in sales to 217,730 units, from 242,675 a year ago.

The company said demand was up for its Camry and Hybrid Camry sedans, but consumers snubbed its trucks, SUVs and Lexus luxury vehicles.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. said sales were down 3.2 percent to 138,734 vehicles, from 143,392 in 2007. Following the trend elsewhere, truck and SUV sales waned while sales of fuel-sipping small sedans picked up. Detroit News

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