Light truck sales mixed

Sales of light trucks were decidedly mixed at the midpoint of 2004, with Japanese pickup manufacturer Nissan making strong gains at the expense of Ford and General Motors.

Ford Motor Company said its total trucks sales dropped 2.7% in June to 194,801 units compared to the same month last year, though total truck sales inched up 0.7% to 1.219 million units through the first six months of this year. Sales of Ford’s popular F-Series rose 1.3% in June to 74,935 units, climbing 7.7% to 432,969 units though the first half of 2004 as compared to the same period in 2003.

GM suffered a 15% decline in both car and truck sales in June, with truck sales falling to 218,558 units. Through the first six months of 2004, GM’s total vehicles sales inched up a mere 1% to 2.3 million units versus the same period last year, with a 3% gain in truck sales counterbalanced by a nearly 3% drop in car sales.

DaimlerChrysler said total global June sales climbed 1%, with its North American unit Chrysler Group -- which consists of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands -- posting sales of 209,252 vehicles in the U.S., an increase of 5%. For the first six months of 2004, sales at Chrysler Group are up 3% compared to the same period in 2003.

Nissan, however, posted huge gains in truck sales although its overall market share still lags the Big Three. Nissan’s light truck sales in June rose 63.4% to 35,528 units and climbed 71.3% to 183,565 units through the first six months of this year.

Toyota’s light truck sales, by contrast, were much slower. Toyota Division light truck sales were up 3% percent in June with 64,616 units sold, with sales of its Tundra full-size pickup rising just 1.4% with 8,901 units sold. Tacoma compact pickup sales topped 12,891 units in June, up 0.1%.

“There’s no doubt that higher gasoline prices over the last few months have temporarily affected retail spending,” said Jim Press, executive vp &d COO for Toyota Motor Sales. “However, we’re already seeing a rise in consumer confidence and a softening of fuel prices. The combination should result in an upswing in industry sales this summer.”

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