US automakers outpaced rivals in 2010

January 05, 2011 | 14:09
The Detroit Three US automakers outpaced most of their rivals in 2010 and on Tuesday predicted strong sales growth in 2011 as they reap the rewards of years of painful restructuring.

The strong 2010 results - Ford up 19 per cent, Chrysler up 17 per cent and General Motors up six per cent -- come as overall industry sales recover from the worst downturn in decades which thrust GM and Chrysler into government-backed bankruptcies.

They also come at the expense of Toyota, which saw sales remain at depressed 2009 levels after its once-stellar reputation was damaged by a series of mass safety recalls.

Total US auto sales rose 11.1 per cent to 11.59 million vehicles in 2010 from 10.43 million in 2009, according to Autodata.

However, that is still significantly below the 15 to 17 million vehicles sold every year from 1994 through 2007.

Ford, which managed to survive the economic downturn without government aid, was the biggest winner as its sales rose 19 per cent to 1.94 million vehicles.

Ford regained the number two spot from Toyota as it expanded US market share for the second year in a row to 16.7 per cent -- the first back-to-back market share increase since 1993.

"With our balanced line of high-quality, fuel-efficient products, we have a solid foundation to deliver more sales and improved results in 2011," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for US marketing, sales and service.

"Consideration for Ford is increasing beyond our traditional areas of strength -- signaling that the seeds of growth already have taken hold."

Ford said it expects global auto sales to reach record levels of 75 to 85 million vehicles in 2010 with US auto sales in the range of 12.5 to 13.5 million.

GM had a more robust forecast for 2011 US sales -- 13 to 13.5 million vehicles -- and said it was well positioned for gains after sales rose 6.3 per cent to 2.2 million vehicles in 2010.

GM, which emerged from bankruptcy in July 2009 and launched the world's biggest initial stock offering in November, noted that its four remaining brands sold 118,435 more vehicles this year than the company' eight brands in 2009.

However, its market share nonetheless slipped 0.7 points to 19.1 per cent, according to Autodata.

"Our sales this year reflect the impact of GM's new business model," said Don Johnson, vice president of US sales operations.

"The consistency of results that we achieved demonstrates the focus on our brands, dealers and customers, and how we compete aggressively for every sale, every day."

Chrysler attributed its solid gains to the business plan developed by Fiat's Sergio Marchionne, who took the helm after Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009.

"We are extremely proud of the sales strides we made during this transition year," said Fred Diaz, Chrysler's lead executive for US sales.

The automaker launched 16 all-new or significantly improved models last year, most of them during the fourth quarter.

Chrysler's sales rose 17 per cent to 1.09 million vehicles in 2010 after posting nine straight months of growth culminating in a 16 per cent year-on-year gain for December. Its share of the US market rose 0.5 points to 9.4 per cent.

Toyota's share of the US market dropped 1.8 points to 15.2 per cent after 2010 sales shrank by 0.4 per cent to 1.76 million vehicles after falling 5.5 per cent to 177,488 in December.

"We're coming off what was arguably the most challenging time in our 53 year history," in the United States, said Don Esmond, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, USA.

"I know we've never headed into a new year with as much excitement and anticipation as we are in 2011."

Toyota had a more conservative forecast for 2011 US sales of just 12.5 million vehicles, but expects 2012 sales to reach 13.7 million.

Esmond said he expects Toyota to outpace the industry in sales growth next year and noted that Toyota managed to hang onto the top position for US retail sales despite a brief suspension in sales in the wake of the recalls.

While Ford and GM outpaced Toyota on total sales, Esmond said that was largely due to their reliance on lower-margin fleet sales.

Honda saw US sales rise 7.3 per cent to 1.23 million vehicles, which allowed it to maintain the number four spot in terms of overall sales even as its share shrank 0.4 points to 10.6 per cent.

Nissan's sales rose 18 per cent to 908,570 vehicles as its share grew 0.4 points to 7.8 per cent.

Hyundai cracked the half-million mark for the first time as sales rose 24 per cent to 538,228 vehicles and its share rose 0.4 points to 4.6 per cent.


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