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Auto Sales Fall Sharply

U.S. auto sales fell sharply in October, dampened by hurricanes, rising interest rates and high gas prices. Demand was down after a summer of heavily hyped discounts, and automakers warned that they don't expect an upswing in November.

Ford and Nissan reported big declines, while Toyota's U.S. sales edged up 5.2 percent.

Sport utility vehicles took the biggest hit across all makers. Sales of the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Navigator and Toyota Land Cruiser were all down 50 percent or more.

Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales fell 23 percent in October from a year ago. Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury trucks and sport utility vehicles fell 30 percent compared to last October, while car sales slipped 3.7 percent. Ford's popular F-series truck saw sales fall 32 percent.

"October wasn't a very good month for anybody," Ford's U.S. sales analysis manager George Pipas said Tuesday. "It was pretty much weak from the start and showed little improvement as the weeks progressed."

Ford said its new Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr midsize sedans were notable exceptions, exceeding Ford's expectations in their first month in dealerships. Pipas said Ford expected to sell 2,700 Fusion sedans in October but sold more than 4,000.

Ford's car sales rose 7 percent for the year, but overall sales fell nearly 3 percent.

But Toyota Motor Corp. said its overall U.S. sales rose 5.2 percent in October, boosted by a 12.6 percent jump in car sales. Toyota's truck and SUV sales were down 4 percent for the month.

Toyota's sales rose 10.7 percent for the first 10 months of the year. Jim Press, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said he's optimistic about the rest of the year.

"The incentive-induced daze is lifting, and the hurricane season is coming to a close," Press said.

Nissan Motor Co. said U.S. sales were down 19 percent, including a 23 percent dip in car sales. Nissan's overall sales were up 12.5 percent for the year.

U.S. automakers ended their employee discounts the first week of October and were expecting some payback after phenomenal sales this summer. General Motors Corp. began its discount in June, and Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG followed in July.

Sales percentages were adjusted for differences in the number of selling days. There were 26 selling days in October 2005 and 27 in October 2004.