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GM Sells 9.17 Million Vehicles in '05, Stays in Front of Toyota

January 13, 2006|From Times Wire Services

General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, said it sold 9.17 million vehicles last year, the most since 1978 as the company posted gains in Asia and other regions outside North America.

Sales increased 2% from 8.99 million the previous year, GM said Thursday. The Detroit-based company sold 9.55 million cars and trucks in 1978, its highest total in any year, spokesman Rob Peterson said.

General Motors stayed ahead of Toyota Motor Corp. as the biggest automaker by sales. Toyota has said it expects to report 8.09 million vehicles sold for 2005.

GM said it exceeded 1 million sales in the Asia-Pacific region for the first time, gaining 20% from the previous year and taking the lead in China. Last week, GM reported a 4.3% decline in U.S. sales of cars and light trucks.

"While we tackle the significant challenges in North America, the growth initiatives we have undertaken around the world in recent years are paying off and bode well for the company's future," Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said.

GM executives are set to discuss their turnaround strategy with financial analysts in the Detroit-area today.

GM also said it expected to post global growth in vehicle sales in 2006, but the automaker did not specify a percentage-target for its 2006 growth forecast.

GM said it expected sales growth this year to come partly from the introduction of new, more fuel-efficient models of its Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban full-size sport utility vehicles in the U.S. and Canada.

Jerome York, an advisor to GM investor Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp., said this week that he planned to meet with GM Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson today. Kerkorian has a 7.8% stake in the automaker.

In a speech this week, York called on executives to shift into "crisis mode" by cutting GM's $2 annual dividend in half to conserve cash, trimming executive compensation and shedding its Saab and Hummer lines.

In its statement released Thursday, GM highlighted the fast sales growth of its Hummer lineup of SUVs, but acknowledged that Saab sales had been flat on a global basis in 2005. GM sold 61,000 Hummers around the world in 2005, up from 31,000 a year earlier. The company said much of that growth came from the roll-out of the mid-size H3 model.

GM shares fell 90 cents to $20.96.

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