Ford, Toyota Report Big U.S. Sales Drops

Sun glints off the logo on the grille of an unsold 2008 Highlander at a Toyota dealership in the east Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008. General Motors Corp. has lost the sole claim it held for 76 years as the world's auto sales leader, as totals for 2007 released Wednesday showed the company in a virtual tie with Toyota Motor Corp.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday its U.S. sales fell 26.5 percent in August, as the struggling automaker's results - even worse than July's dismal figures - showed that the U.S. auto sales slump may not have bottomed out.

Toyota's sales dropped 9.4 percent from August of last year, a further indication that the woes in the U.S. auto market are continuing, but Nissan - the only major automaker to show a sales gain in July - reported another improvement, with a 13.6 percent increase in August sales.

Ford sold 155,172 light vehicles last month, down 3.6 percent from 160,990 in July, which was the industry's worst month for U.S. sales in 16 years.

The Dearborn-based automaker said its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury car sales dropped nearly 9 percent, while truck sales were off more than 32 percent last month.

The company also doesn't expect a sales rebound in the second half of the year. It said Wednesday that it plans to cut 50,000 more vehicles from its production plan in the second half of the year, reducing its output to 890,000 in the last six months of 2008.

"We expect the second half of 2008 will be more challenging than the first half as weak economic conditions and the consumer credit crunch continue," Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president for marketing and sales, said in a statement.

There were some bright spots for Ford. Sales of its Focus small car were up 23 percent in August, while Escape small SUV sales rose 17 percent compared with the same month a year ago.

Toyota Motor Corp. said its car sales were down 3.4 percent from August 2007, and trucks were down 17.6 percent. Sales of the tiny Yaris were up more than 20 percent for the month, while the Camry midsize sedan saw sales grow by 3.3 percent, the company said.

Nissan Motor Co. said its car sales fell 0.8 percent but its truck sales climbed 34.8 percent on strong sales of its Frontier, Xterra and Quest models and the Infiniti EX and FX crossovers.

Despite Nissan's gains, Ford's and Toyota's numbers are an indication that the U.S. auto market was still in a funk in August.

Analysts have predicted a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for August of just over 13 million, far below the August 2007 rate of 16.2 million.

They would have reduced August predictions even further had it not been for General Motors Corp.'s employee-pricing-for-everyone offer during the last two weeks of the month. On Wednesday, GM extended the offer until Sept. 30.

Employee discounts generally are 10 percent below the invoice price but vary by model.

GM and the rest of the auto industry were to release their August sales results later Wednesday.

U.S. sales in July fell to an annual rate of 12.5 million vehicles. Most major automakers posted double-digit declines, with Nissan Motor Co. the only one to report an increase.

Automakers have seen their sales tumble this year as weak consumer confidence, house value declines and high gas prices have steered many buyers away from dealer lots and pushed the ones who remain toward smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

At the same time, the tightening of credit markets and higher leasing costs have made it harder for many Americans to get financing.

The Associated Press reports unadjusted auto sales figures, calculating the percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report percentages adjusted for sales days. There were 27 sales days in August, the same as in August 2007.