U.S. car sales: Toyota tanks, others take flight

Toyota’s car sales fell 16 percent in January, a month they recalled millions of vehicles and halted sales of several models.
Most other automakers reported higher sales, a sign they may be benefiting from Toyota’s woes.

January is typically
a weak month for U.S. auto sales, but automakers were expecting sales to improve over last January, when they dipped to a
26-year low because of the tough economy. Sales never really recovered last year, totaling 10.4 million cars and light trucks,
the lowest since 1982.

General Motors Co. said its January sales rose 14 percent compared to the same month a year
ago due to higher fleet and crossover vehicle sales. Crossovers are SUV-like in size but sit on a car instead of a truck frame.

Crosstown rival Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, was up 25 percent from January 2009, while Japan’s Nissan Motor Co.’s rose
16 percent.

Chrysler was down 8 percent while Honda Motor Co. sales fell 5 percent. Korean automaker Kia said its
January U.S. sales were essentially flat.

George Pipas, Ford’s top sales analyst, said he did not see evidence
that Ford was taking buyers from Toyota Motor Corp., which halted U.S. sales of eight popular models due to faulty gas pedals
in the final week of the month.

Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of sales, said Toyota’s actions may have hurt
sales for the industry as a whole toward the end of last month.

Toyota said it would suspend sales of the Camry
sedan, its top-selling vehicle, and seven other cars and trucks on Jan. 26 following a recall over sticky accelerator pedals.
Toyota has said dealers will get the parts to fix the problem by the end of this week.

In the meantime, Toyota
could lose thousands of sales in January and February. The car-buying site Edmunds.com predicted Toyota’s U.S. market share
would drop to 14.7 percent in January, its lowest level since March 2006. The recall affects 2.3 million cars and trucks in
the U.S.

Ford and General Motors Corp., meanwhile, have been offering incentives to Toyota drivers who trade in
vehicles.

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