DETROIT General Motors Corp (GM.N) trailed
Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) in global vehicle
sales decisively through the second quarter and first half of
the year, hurt by a large decline in North America.
The Detroit-based automaker said on Wednesday that vehicle
sales fell 3 percent to 4.54 million vehicles in the first half
as higher sales in Europe, Asia and Latin America failed to
offset a 15 percent decline in North America.
Toyota sales, meanwhile, rose 2.2 percent to 4.8 million in
the first six months of 2008. The tally includes sales at
mini-vehicle unit Daihatsu Motor Co 7262.T and truck unit
Hino Motors Ltd (7205.T).
Higher U.S. gas prices have "put an enormous amount of
pressure" on GM's truck sales, said Erich Merkle, an automotive
consultant with accounting and consulting firm Crowe Chizek and
Co LLC. "That is equating to lower sales for GM and causing
them to now fall behind Toyota."
Both the automakers have cut U.S. truck production in
response to weak U.S. auto sales and a consumer shift from
low-mileage vehicles because of high fuel prices.
The slump in U.S. demand for large SUVs and pickup trucks
has hit GM particularly hard as the high-margin vehicles
historically account for a majority of the automaker's sales.
Toyota, on the other hand, has been able to weather the
downturn better because of its strong car line-up, but plans to
cut its global sales target for 2008.
GM and Toyota were roughly even in 2007 for the top spot
among the world's automakers, with GM slightly ahead if sales
from a China business were included.
STRONG GROWTH OUTSIDE NORTH AMERICA
GM's global sales fell 5 percent in the second quarter to
2.28 million vehicles, including a 20 percent decline in North
America, its largest market.
GM's sales in North America fell to 963,929 vehicles in the
second quarter from 1.2 million, hurt by the slow U.S. economy
and labor disruptions in the U.S. market, the company said.
Quarterly sales rose 10 percent outside North America.
Sales in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East rose
17.7 percent, while sales in its Asia-Pacific region grew 14.6
percent, GM said. Sales rose 2.5 percent in Europe.
Overall, GM expects global demand for autos to increase 2.5
percent to 72 million vehicles in 2008 from 70.6 million last
year, driven by sales increases in emerging markets.
Mike DiGiovanni, GM's chief sales analyst, said most of the
industry's sales increase is expected to be in the so-called
BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China.
"Certainly the biggest risk is the U.S. economic downturn
and potential spill-over effects on the global economy," he
(Additional reporting by David Bailey; editing by Brian
Moss and Derek Caney)