DETROIT — April auto sales were so slow that even fast-rising Toyota Motor Corp. reported a decrease from the same month last year. General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. also reported decreases in U.S. sales, but their Detroit Three rival Chrysler Group bucked the trend and posted a slight increase.
In all, the industry sold 1.34-million passenger cars and light trucks -- sport utility vehicles, pickups and minivans -- in April. That represented a 7.6% decline from 1.45 million a year earlier, Autodata Corp. reported Tuesday.
Most analysts had expected that U.S. sales would be down, largely because of customer concerns about the slumping housing market and rising personal debt, as well as a lack of pent-up demand for vehicles.
Average gasoline prices also remain near $3 a gallon, and many customers are expected to delay auto purchases until they find out what will happen to fuel costs during the summer driving season.
Market leader GM sold 305,204 vehicles in April, down 9.3% from a year earlier, with car and truck sales sharing nearly equal blame for the decline.
Ford Motor reported that U.S. sales fell 13% in April, largely because of slumping car sales as it works to reduce its reliance on low-profit sales to rental fleets. Still, the automaker held on to second place for April, with sales of 213,657 vehicles from its Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands.
Toyota, which has outsold Ford year to date, reported that sales of its Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands dropped to 210,457 last month, a 4.3% decline from a year earlier and rare slip for the company.
Sales at DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group rose 1.6% to 193,104, thanks to the Jeep brand, which increased 29% from a year earlier.
Honda Motor Co.'s decline was almost as surprising as Toyota's, with the company's sales falling 9.1%.
At Ford, even its Fusion and Mercury Milan mid-size cars, which had been selling well in recent months, saw a decline, with Fusion sales off 2.5% and Milan down 5.4%. Ford's F-Series pickups, traditionally the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., were down 12.4% in April.
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*--* April sales % change YTD (In thousands from market of units) April. '06 share GM 305.2 -9.3% 22.9% Ford 213.7 -13.0 15.5 Toyota 210.5 -4.3 15.6 Chrysler 193.1 +1.6 14.0 Honda 126.4 -9.1 9.2 Nissan 71.1 -18.0 6.7 Hyundai 39.1 -4.6 2.7 Kia 26.0 -6.5 1.9 BMW 25.3 +0.2 1.8 Mazda 21.1 -5.9 1.9