Toyota's pain is rivals' gain

January was a solid month for automakers, with sales coming in ahead of year-ago levels.

By Elizabeth Strott Feb 2, 2010 10:12AM

Car lease © Don Mason/CorbisUpdated at 3:50 p.m. ET


Automakers said January sales in North America were mostly higher as the economy improved. But it was a rough month for Toyota Motor (TM), which on Jan. 26 issued massive recalls to repair sticking gas pedals.


The recalls have already started to take a toll on Toyota's sales, which fell 16% last month to 98,796 vehicles. 


Ford and General Motors are offering incentives to Toyota drivers who trade in vehicles.


Industry analysts were expecting overall sales in January of 10.5 million to 11 million vehicles on an annualized basis, up from 9.6 million in January 2009. Sales fell below the 10-million-unit annualized rate in January 2009 for the first time since 1982 amid a deep economic downturn.

About 11.2 million vehicles were sold in North America in December, when automakers got a boost from year-end incentives.


"December is generally one of the strongest sales months of the year, while January is typically one of the weakest, and that held true this season," analyst Jessica Caldwell told MarketWatch. 


Ford Motor (F) saw sales of its vehicles jump 24.6% in January to 116,534 units. Sales of Ford cars surged 43%, while SUV sales rose 8%. Crossovers were up 20% and truck sales climbed 14%.


Ford said its U.S. market share jumped 2 percentage points last month to 16%.  


"There's no question that the worst is behind us. There's no question about that and that we're into a period of expansion," Ford sales analyst George Pipas said, according to Thomson Reuters.


Toyota stopped selling more than half of its vehicles after the recall was announced, costing the sale of 20,000 vehicles, according to company estimates. forecast that Toyota's sales would fall 12% in January, pushing the company to a market share of 14.7%, its lowest level since March 2006. Its market share was 17% last year.


Toyota this week outlined plans to fix its gas pedal problem, but some experts believe the company could face lawsuits and a drop in future sales.


General Motors said January sales rose 14% to 146,315 vehicles, better than had been forecast. The automaker credited a strong economy and Toyota's woes.


Chrysler's sales declined 8% last month to 57,143 vehicles.


Daimler (DAI) posted a 26.4% jump in sales to 15,436 units.


Nissan Motor (NSANY) said combined sales of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles rose 16% in January to 62,572 vehicles and forecast "significant" gains in market share.


Honda Motor (HMC) reported its sales fell 5% to 67,479, as car sales grew 2.7% but truck sales dropped 15%. Honda issued its biggest recall in seven years last month.


Volkswagen (VLKPY) said its sales rose 41%, to about 18,000.

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