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U.S. Auto Makers' '87 Sales Trail '86 By 1 Million Units

January 07, 1988|From Reuters

DETROIT — Sales of new cars and trucks by the U.S. auto industry dropped by more than 1 million units in 1987 from record 1986 levels, with wounded giant General Motors Corp. accounting for the bulk of the decline.

It was the industry's first year of lower sales since the last recession early this decade. But Detroit and its foreign-owned competitors still apparently posted the fourth best sales year in the industry's history as record truck sales helped make up for some of the drop in cars.

Total cars sales were estimated at just above 10.2 million in 1987, compared to 11.45 million in 1986, while truck sales--which include the popular minivans and sport utility vehicles--were estimated at just below 5 million, compared to the record 4.89 million in 1986.

Imports--including those sold by the Detroit-based manufacturers--took nearly 31% of the U.S. car market in 1987, compared to 28.2% in 1986.

But Detroit regained ground in the booming truck market and pushed imports' share to 18.1% from 19.7% in 1986.

Combined car and truck retail sales were estimated at about 15.2 million, compared to above 16.3 million in 1986, the industry's high-water mark. Estimates were necessary because Chrysler Corp. said its report was delayed until today by computer problems.

General Motors, which has dominated the U.S. auto industry for decades, suffered the greatest sales declines, with lower figures at all five of its car divisions. The biggest drops came in the Buick and Oldsmobile nameplates.

GM, currently hosting a multimillion-dollar technology show at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel to bolster its image, reported that combined sales of domestic and imported cars fell 20.6% in 1987 to 3,728,313 from 4,693,161 in 1986.

In a statement, GM sales chief C. N. (Bud) Moore made scant reference to reasons for the huge sales drop. But he pointed to newer car and truck models as reasons that "we are optimistic about 1988."

By contrast, there was an upbeat mood at GM's cross-town archrival Ford Motor Co. as the perennial No. 2 auto maker posted Detroit's only combined sales gain for the year.

Ford said its domestic and import mode car sales for 1987 dropped 1.0% to 2,060,834 from 2,080,822 in 1986, while truck sales rose 5.0% to 1,453,225 from 1,381,438.

Ford sales Vice President Louis Lataif said the industry's estimated volume above 15 million was "slightly above our target" and added that his company's combined gains "ran counter to the industry, resulting in record truck sales and significant market share gains for both Ford cars and trucks."

Moreover, Ford nameplate cars and trucks outsold GM volume leader Chevrolet by almost 200,000 vehicles, in what Chevy officials acknowledged was the first time this has happened in three decades.

Chrysler's full-year sales of domestic model cars were estimated by analysts at 960,000, compared to 1,246,316 a year ago. But comparisons were made more difficult because of the No. 3 auto maker's acquisition of American Motors' car and jeep businesses last August.

Industry analyst Maryann Keller of the Wall Street firm Furman Selz and Co. said GM's large drop in car market share to about 36.5% from 41.2% in 1986 had been one of the major developments of the past year and would likely extend into the new year.

"I think the whole industry will have lower sales in 1988, but it will be a much smaller drop than 1987," she said.

BEST-SELLING MODELS IN 1987

Sales through November

Ford Escort 364,343

Ford Taurus 322,328

Chevrolet Celebrity 283,947

Chevrolet Cavalier 276,333

Hyundai Excel 244,265

Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera 228,582

Honda Accord 210,010

Ford Tempo 199,392

Pontiac Grand-Am 197,880

Chevrolet Corsica 195,415

Source: Integrated Automotive Resources

DECEMBER AUTO SALES

% 1987 1986 change GM 263,997 325,903 -19.0 Ford 159,197 207,884 -23.4 Chrysler* 81,200 96,206 -15.6 Honda U.S. 27,971 24,931 +12.2 VW U.S. 3,517 5,558 -36.7 Nissan U.S. 5,465 8,417 -35.1 ToyotaU.S. 7,080 4,179 +69.4 Mazda U.S. 985 -- -- DOMESTIC 549,412 673,078 -18.4 Toyota Imp. 73,978 71,359 +3.7 Nissan Imp. 29,664 39,342 -24.6 Honda Imp. 52,156 49,586 +5.2 Mazda 18,649 29,299 -36.3 Subaru 15,324 15,114 +1.4 VW Imp. 11,662 11,846 -1.6 Volvo 3,944 1,995 +97.7 Hyundai 19,345 22,412 -13.7 Mitsubishi 5,185 5,438 -4.7 Others* 50,093 70,814 -29.3 IMPORTS* 280,000 317,205 -11.7 Total U.S. 829,412 990,283 -16.2

1987 AUTO SALES

1987 1986 % change GM 3,555,538 4,532,798 -21.6 Ford 2,019,783 2,066,507 -2.3 Chrysler* 1,011,236 1,246,316 -18.9 HondaU.S. 316,618 235,247 +34.6 VWU.S.* 61,064 73,920 -17.4 Nissan U.S. 119,678 52,602 +127.5 Toyota U.S. 44,853 7,281 +516.0 Mazda U.S. 1,671 -- -- DOMESTIC 7,130,441 8,214,671 -13.2 Toyota 585,199 633,914 -7.7 Nissan 409,476 494,294 -17.2 Honda 421,688 458,268 -8.0 Mazda 206,354 222,716 -7.3 Subaru 175,864 179,100 -1.8 VW 130,641 143,319 -8.8 Volvo 105,087 111,086 -5.4 Hyundai 263,610 168,882 +56.1 Mitsubishi 67,954 49,436 +37.5 Others* 773,443 765,288 +1.1 IMPORTS 3,139,316 3,226,303 -2.7 TOTAL U.S. 10,269,757 11,440,974 -10.2

*Estimate

There were 307 selling days in the period this year and last.

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