Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Auto sales drive off a cliff - even Toyota's

Only Chrysler reports a rise over last April.

DETROIT - April was such a lousy month for auto sales that every major manufacturer but Chrysler reported a decrease from the same month last year.

Even Toyota.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. all showed declines as automakers released their monthly U.S. sales numbers yesterday, but the drop for Toyota Motor Corp. countered a nearly two-year trend of rising sales.

Toyota sales, which include the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands, dropped 4.4 percent to 210,457 last month from 219,965 in April 2006, the company said. It was the first year-over-year monthly decline for Toyota since May 2005.

The Japanese automaker has seen double-digit increases in recent months. In March, for example, its sales jumped 11.7 percent.

"This certainly is uncharacteristic of Toyota," said Joe Barker, senior manager of global sales analysis for CSM Worldwide, an automotive forecasting firm in Northville. "I would expect them to rebound strongly next month."

U.S. light-vehicle sales for all automakers declined 7.6 percent last month to 1.34 million from about 1.45 million a year ago, according to AutoData Corp.

Industry analysts say the bad month is a harbinger for the whole industry in the second half of the year with economic uncertainty, high consumer debt, the housing slowdown, and rising gasoline prices contributing to a softer automotive market.

Consumers also are waiting for incentives to rise as many manufacturers try to reduce them, said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the auto Web site.

"They're waiting for the next big sale and perhaps postponing their purchases because of this combination of factors," Toprak said. "They don't have a lot of confidence in the housing market; gas prices are higher."

Nissan reported the worst decline in April, with sales down 18 percent from the same month a year ago.

Ford reported a 12.9 percent decline in U.S. sales due largely to slumping car sales. Car sales were off 23.6 percent, while truck sales fell 5.7 percent, the company said.

GM sales dropped 9.5 percent from April of last year, while DaimlerChrysler AG sales were up 1.2 percent. Honda sales sank 9.1 percent from a year ago.

DaimlerChrysler's overall sales increased, thanks to an increase at its Chrysler Group. Chrysler sales rose 1.6 percent. Mercedes sales slipped 1.8 percent.

Chrysler said it had a strong retail month, with the Jeep brand up 29 percent largely because of sales of the four-door Wrangler and Compass models.

But Toprak said Chrysler led all major manufacturers in incentives with an average of about $4,000 per vehicle, and the company had not decreased its low-profit sales to fleet buyers as much as Ford and GM have.