Declining Sales Rock the Auto Industry

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. soundly beat Toyota Motor Corp. in June to retain its traditional U.S. sales lead, but GM sales still dropped 18.2 percent during a dismal month for most large automakers. Toyota's U.S. sales fell 21.4 percent, while Ford Motor Co. said it sales tumbled nearly 28 percent.

Annual auto sales, which hit 17 million in 2005, slowed to 16.1 million last year, and are expected to skid another 10% this year, reports CBS News Business Correspondent Anthony Mason

"We haven't seen a double digit decline in the automotive industry in decades," said auto industry analyst Rebecca Lindland with Global Insight.

Officially, U.S. auto sales are on pace for their worst year since 1993, with an estimated 14.5 million units in 2008 expected to be sold, down from an average of 16.8, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.

Ford was the first automaker to report sales data Tuesday. Analysts had predicted June auto sales could drop by double-digits to their lowest monthly rate in 16 years. Ford shares sank to a new 52-week low, while rival General Motors Corp. shares are trading near their lowest level in more than a half century.

GM's shares bounced nearly 6 percent higher in afternoon trading Tuesday after sinking to their lowest level in more than a half century during Monday's session.

The nation's biggest automaker on Tuesday reported selling 262,329 vehicles for the month, compared with Toyota's 193,234. Some industry analysts had expected Toyota to beat GM in the U.S. for the first time, but both companies were hurt by a sluggish economy and poor sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Toyota car sales fell 9.4 percent in June while its truck sales were off 38.8 percent.

GM's car sales sank 21 percent in June, while its incentive-boosted truck sales were off 16 percent. For the first half of the year, GM sales fell 16.3 percent compared with the year-ago period. Toyota sales were down 6.8 percent for the first six months of the year.

Toyota took the global sales lead from General Motors in the first quarter, capitalizing on growth in China and Europe as GM saw its North American sales drag down gains in other markets. GM barely won the global sales race with Toyota last year, but Toyota overtook it as the world's top automaker as measured by global vehicle production in 2007.

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