Light trucks aiding auto sales

Chrysler, Toyota and General Motors said this week that sales of light trucks helped boost their overall automotive sales in August. However, Ford and Nissan said low August truck sales have only added to their overall losses. Chrysler said that its Dodge Ram pickup line posted strong sales results for both August and the first eight months of 2003, but weren’t strong enough to reverse the company’s

Chrysler, Toyota and General Motors said this week that sales of light trucks helped boost their overall automotive sales in August. However, Ford and Nissan said low August truck sales have only added to their overall losses.

Chrysler said that its Dodge Ram pickup line posted strong sales results for both August and the first eight months of 2003, but weren’t strong enough to reverse the company’s overall automotive slump.

Chrysler said it sold 43,824 Dodge Ram units in August, up 12% from the 40,440 units it sold in August 2002. Chrysler added that Ram's sales for 2003 to date were 302,480 units, eclipsing its previous eight-month record total of 292,413 units in 1999.

General Motors said that its August truck sales were up 5% to 284,129 units. Car sales, however, declined 8% to 188,298 units, reflecting an 18% decline in fleet deliveries – meaning overall car and truck sales dropped a half a percent in August to 472,427 units.

Still, GM is pleased that its pickup truck line continues to post strong sales. Full-size pickup sales increased 18% in August to 101,819 units, with overall GM pickup sales climbing to 122,513 units, also an improvement of 18%.

“August sales continue to reflect strong truck sales and growing confidence in the economy,” said John Smith, group vp of GM North America.

Sales of Toyota’s pickups increased slightly in August to 29,142 units from 28,188 units in August 2002, but dropped to 174,103 units through the first eight months of 2003, down from 176,594 units in the same period last year.

However, Toyota’s light truck division reported a strong up-tick in overall sales. Toyota’s overall light truck sales rose to 81,281 units in August from 74,845 units in the same month last year, while sales jumped to 492,408 units through the first eight months of 2003, compared to 478,820 units in the same period last year.

Ford said its August sales declined 15% compared with the same month last year, with truck sales down 7% and car sales falling 28%.

Ford's popular F-Series pickup line is especially hurting. For August, sales dropped 6% to 73,698, down 6% from last August's record sales of 78,566, and the third highest August sales in F-Series' 55-year history. In the first eight months of 2003, F-Series sales dropped over 2% to 545,582 units.

Sales of Nissan’s Frontier pickup dropped to 7,613 units in August, down from 7,988 units in August 2002, while sales through the first eight months of the year dropped to 42,859 units, down from 53,119 units in the same period last year.

Nissan’s overall light truck sales didn’t fare much better. While total truck sales rose to 28,123 units in August from 24,099 units in the same month last year, through the first eight months of 2003 light truck sales fell to 156,060 units, down from 164,315 units through the same period in 2002.

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