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DATE News (chronologically)
06/04/08
automotive
Stupid USA carmakers drowning in their big trucks
Asian automakers outsold Detroit's Big Three for the first time in May as the industry continued its dramatic shift toward more fuel-efficient cars. Helped by a reputation for fuel-sipping models, Asian brands captured 47.8 percent of the U.S. market, while American automakers held just 45.4 percent of their home turf last month.

Exemplifying the landslide toward cars, the Honda Civic supplanted the Ford F-Series pickup as the nation's best-selling vehicle.

"May was a watershed month," said Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president for marketing and communications. "We as an industry are catching up with breathtaking choices customers are making." Last month, 57 percent of all vehicles sold were passenger cars, according to Autodata Corp. A year ago, they accounted for less than 50 percent of the market.

Overall, truck sales continued their nosedive in May, falling 23.6 percent, while cars posted a modest 2.4 percent increase. The Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla and Honda Accord all outsold Ford's flagship vehicle last month, marking May as the first month since the early 1990s that a car, not a pickup, was the best selling vehicle in the United States. On an annual basis, the F-series has been the nation's top-selling vehicle since 1981. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. all gained market share in May, while the Big Three all lost ground. The total Asian market share includes Mazda Motor Co., a Japanese automaker in which Ford holds a one-third and controlling stake.

In times of high gas prices and economic uncertainty, consumers are choosing brands with a reputation for fuel economy and reliability, said Joe Barker, senior manager for global vehicle sales at Northville-based CSM Worldwide.

"The Japanese have built a longstanding reputation for delivering fuel-efficient vehicles, and that's paying dividends for them now," he said. Barker added that higher resale values for brands such as Toyota and Honda allow their customers to get a good trade-in, while buyers of traditional American vehicles may find they owe more on their car than it's worth, causing them to put off buying a new model. Sales plunge in May

Burdened with lineups heavy with trucks and SUVs, Detroit's Big Three automakers each reported dramatic sales declines in May compared to a year ago. General Motors sales were down 27.5 percent, Ford's fell 15.8 percent, and Chrysler LLC sales dropped 25.4 percent, according to Autodata.

Honda sales rose 15.6 percent, while Toyota reported a 4.3 percent decline. A struggling economy pushed overall industry sales down 10.7 percent last month compared to May 2007. With the price of a gallon of gas hitting $4 in many areas of the country last month, Ford and GM are coming to grips with customers fleeing SUVs and trucks, which once buoyed their volumes and profits. Both automakers have announced drastic restructuring plans that significantly cut truck production while bolstering output of cars and crossovers. Detroit News
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