By Richard Truett and Ryan Beene
Detroit, Michigan -- Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. bumped Ford Motor Co. to No. 3 in US sales in 2007, with 2.62 million units sold to Ford's 2.56 million.
General Motors Corp. remained No. 1 overall with sales of 3.82 million vehicles, good for a market share of 23.7 percent, according to data gathered by Automotive News, which is published by Tire Business' parent, Crain Communications Inc.
Overall, the car industry sold 16.2 million light vehicles in the US last year, down 2.5 percent from 16.6 million in 2006.
Toyota's total US market share now stands at 16.8 percent to Ford's 16.4 percent, but that doesn't bother Ford marketing chief Jim Farley, who left Toyota last fall to join Ford.
The company's focus is on restructuring operations to be profitable at lower demand levels, Farley said in a conference call to reporters and analysts.
â€œWeÂ´ve been beating our plan like a drum,â€ he said.
From a marketing standpoint, part of the overall restructuring plan is to eliminate the gap between the quality of Ford products and the public's negative perception of it.
â€œThere's a whole litany of reasons why customers can trust Ford,â€ Farley said.
Ford plans on reaching customers by â€œshifting our message to reach out in a very humble and honest way to tell our customers what makes Ford special,â€ he said. â€œWe won't be spending more money, just reallocating where we spend it,â€ he said.
Toyota executives said the industry has been challenged by fallout from the weak housing market, credit market turbulence, fragile consumer confidence and fluctuations in the oil industry.
Despite those headwinds, Toyota expects the 2008 vehicle market to once again hit 16.1 million units, mostly from a strong second half making up for a tough first half. Sales should recover further in 2009 and 2010. While Toyota previously had predicted its own 2-3 percent sales would grow 2 to 3 percent in 2008, it has revised its forecast to 1-2 percent.
â€œTwo of our key markets, Florida and California, were hit hardest by the housing fallout,â€ said Bob Carter, Toyota Division general manager. â€œWe still see the fundamentals as very strong. We see that carrying into 2008, especially the second half.â€
GM retained the top spot despite 6-percent lower sales than in 2006.
Chrysler LLC finished the year under its new ownership with 3.1-percent lower sales. Chrysler's Dodge brand slipped 3 percent for the year, while the Chrysler brand was off 9 percent.
It was a mixed year for American Honda Motor Co., with sales of Honda-branded cars up 11.1 percent of 2006 but sales by the upscale Acura division were down 10.5 percent.
Nissan finished on a good note, with combined sales for Nissan and Infiniti topping 1 million units for the second straight year.
The battle of US brands finished with GM's Chevrolet unit regaining the No. 1 spot it won briefly from Ford division in 2005. Toyota division, meanwhile, moved into the No. 2 spot last year ahead of Ford, with 2.16 million vehicles vs. 2.09 million for Ford. Chevy's sales were 2.25 million, a 6.1-percent drop from 2006.
From Tire Business (A Crain publication)