November Auto Sales Weak; Ford Surprises

Includes: F, GM, HMC, NSANY, TM
by: Judith Levy

U.S. auto sales fell in November, with GM (GM) suffering an 11% drop, while Ford (F) surpassed expectations with a 0.4% increase, its first positive month after a year of uninterrupted declines. Chrysler's November sales fell 2%. Toyota (NYSE:TM) scraped into the black with a 0.3% overall gain, but Lexus sales fell 7% in the month. "Rising fuel prices and sliding home values delivered a one-two punch this month," said Toyota's U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz. Ford and GM said they plan to cut vehicle production in Q1 from year-ago levels. GM will produce 950,000 vehicles in the quarter, 11% below last year, and Ford will produce 685,000, 7.4% below forecast. Japanese rivals Honda (HMC) and Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) posted monthly gains of 4.7% and 6.1%, respectively. Asian auto manufacturers' share of the U.S. market reached 47%; the Big Three just managed to hold onto their collective 50% share. Ford credited its positive result to crossover vehicles Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. "Ford's increase shows the influence new products can have on sales," said Global Insight analyst Rebecca Lindland. "We still think they are going to trend downward next year, but not at nearly the same rate as this year."

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