Ford, Toyota Show Gain in Stabilizing U.S. Market as GM Slides

Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. took U.S. market share in December from General Motors Co. as the government-controlled automaker couldn’t take advantage of improving consumer demand.

GM reported a 5.7 percent drop in light-vehicle deliveries, worse than analysts anticipated, while Chrysler Group LLC’s 3.7 percent decline exceeded estimates. Ford sales soared 33 percent, and Toyota jumped 32 percent.

“People are waking up and realizing the world didn’t end and are starting to return to showrooms," said Aaron Bragman, a forecaster at IHS Global Insight in Troy, Michigan. “It’s way too early to say the trend is pointing north, but if it continues this quarter, it’s a positive sign."

A 15 percent increase in December industrywide sales capped automakers’ first quarterly improvement since the last three months of 2006, after October and November totals were little changed. The recession and bankruptcies at the predecessors of Detroit-based GM and Chrysler ravaged 2009 sales.

Honda Motor Co. said U.S. deliveries increased 24 percent, and Nissan Motor Co. rose 18 percent. The results reshuffled the industry rankings in the U.S., with Honda climbing past Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler and into fourth place for the first time in full-year sales.

Industrywide light-vehicle sales improved to 1.03 million, according to industry researcher Autodata Corp. That equated with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 11.3 million vehicles, Autodata said. The year-earlier rate was 10.3 million.

GM’s Decline

GM said its December decline was driven chiefly by a 33 percent drop in deliveries to fleet customers and a 55 percent decrease among the Hummer, Pontiac, Saturn and Saab brands that are being shut or sold. Sales rose 2.2 percent for the Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick models that GM is keeping.

The biggest U.S. automaker emerged in July from a 40-day, $50 billion, government-backed bankruptcy that gave taxpayers an ownership stake of about 61 percent. GM began repaying some of the $6.7 billion in outstanding government loans last month.

For the year, GM’s U.S. market share fell to 19.9 percent from 22.3 percent as Ford rose to 16.1 percent from 15 percent and Toyota climbed to 17 percent from 16.7 percent, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata.

‘Acceptable Buy’

“Ford is suddenly becoming an acceptable buy for people who it wasn’t before," said John Wolkonowicz, an IHS Global Insight analyst in Lexington, Massachusetts. “Ford is a cool purchase now, which it didn’t used to be. And that is huge." Bloomberg

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