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September Proves Mixed for Big Three Automakers

U.S. sales at Chrysler are down 15%, while GM sees a rise of 12%. Ford's volume is flat. Foreign brands stay strong.

October 02, 2003|From Times Wire Services

DETROIT — The traditional Big Three automakers posted mixed U.S. sales results last month as business tapered off after a blistering August pace, but some foreign brands remained strong.

General Motors Corp. led the way with a 12% increase in September sales of cars and trucks. Ford Motor Co.'s comparable volume was flat, while DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group saw sales fall 15%.

But Chrysler was truly back among the Big Three in September, a month after Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. arm outsold Chrysler for the first time in a single month.

September's tallies: 147,114 vehicles sold for Chrysler, 140,754 for Toyota, Japan's No. 1 automaker.

Still, Toyota's volume rose 10% in September to cap a quarter in which the company's U.S. sales topped half a million for the first time in a three-month period.

Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. sold 93,779 Honda brand autos, up 0.7% from the year-earlier month, on demand for CRV and Pilot sport utility vehicles, the company said. Sales of its Acura line rose 2.8% to 12,873, aided by the new TSX sport sedan and MDX sport utility.

Even with the increase, Honda's U.S. market share slipped 0.1 percentage point last month to 8.2%. The company's share in the first three quarters was 8.3%, a record for the period.

Nissan North America Inc. said its U.S. vehicle sales rose 20% in September, pushing its sales up 5% for the first nine months of the year as the Japanese automaker continues to add new vehicles to its domestic lineup.

Car sales at GM, the world's largest automaker, rose 9% last month. That figure excludes GM's Saab brand. Truck sales volume was up 15%.

Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brand cars were off 17.5% in September, but an 8% jump in truck sales helped level monthly volume.

Ford sold 81,782 F-Series trucks in September, the best month since December 2001.

Nissan, which is adding a full-size SUV and large pickup this year, reported a 43% jump last month in sales of vans, pickups and SUVs. That includes sales in its Infiniti division.

Car sales rose 9% for the month.

In trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, Ford shares were up 33 cents to $11.10, while GM shares were down 37 cents to $40.56. DaimlerChrysler's U.S. shares were up 82 cents to $35.88.

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