Toyota Passes Ford In Drive To Become No. 2 In U.S.

It's official. In a rocky year of credit crisis, gasoline prices and investors rolling the dice, Toyota has become the No. 2 automaker in the U.S.--overtaking Ford Motor, which held the spot for 75 years.

Toyota reported a 3% gain, to 2.62 million vehicles. Ford sales softened 12%, to 2.57 million cars and trucks. Overall, the road for automotive was a rocky 2007 for the car business, punctuated by $100 crude oil barrel prices at the beginning of 2008.

Toyota's Prius gas-electric hybrid reported sales of 14,212 units for a best-ever December and best-ever year-end sales of 181,221 units--up 68.9% over 2006--and the company's redesigned Tundra full-sized pickup, with best-ever year-end sales of 196,555, up 57.4% over the prior year.

Still, Ford's F-150 pickup retains its 26-year-long status as highest-selling vehicle in the U.S., selling 690,589 of the trucks last year.

Toyota's divisional sales were 2,291,648 vehicles, up 2.9% over the prior year. The top-selling lux brand in the U.S., Lexus, sold 329,177 units in 2007, up 1.8% over 2006.

Chrysler LLC's total U.S. sales for December 2007 were 191,423 units, up 1% compared with December 2006. For 2007, total Chrysler LLC sales were 2.07 million, around 3% less than the 2,142,505 units sold in 2006.

No. 1 General Motors posted U.S. sales of 3.87 million--a 6% decrease versus 2006, partly because of a big exodus this year away from truck-based SUVs and big sedans to crossovers and compact cars. But GM's sales declines also reflect a tighter flow of vehicles to daily rental fleets. General Motors' trucks--including SUVs--slipped nearly 5%.

Several automakers managed to break records in 2007.

Honda posted its 11th consecutive year of record sales for the year. The company says its sales from both Honda and Acura divisions totaled 1,551,542, and pushed American Honda annual sales up 2.5%. December sales totaled 131,792 vehicles, a slight increase versus December 2006. The company also had record light-truck sales of 669,327 and sales records for Honda CR-V, Fit, Civic Hybrid and Acura RDX.

Mazda, which spent 2007 rolling out CX-7 and CX-9 crossover SUVs, had the best December and full-year postings since 1994. The company's December sales in the U.S. totaled 24,933 units sold--up 25.2% versus December 2006. The company sold 296,110 vehicles overall in 2007, a 10.2% increase.

BMW Group--the Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based U.S. sales arm of BMW--also reported its year, with sales of 335,840 Mini and BMW vehicles, a 7.1% increase versus 2006. December sales for both brands of 33,761 were up 1% over the 33,417 vehicles reported in the last month of 2006.

Competitor Mercedes-Benz sold 27,301 vehicles in December, which gave the Montvale, N.J. company its best sales year ever in the U.S. Mercedes sold 253,433 vehicles in the U.S. this year, led by its C-Class car, which accounted for 63,701 vehicles--a 26.9% increase.

Audi sold 93,506 new vehicles during 2007, up 3.8%. Audi says during 2007 it made gains in New York (+14.9 %), Miami (+6.6%), and Los Angeles (+12.9%).

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