DETROIT -- Chevrolet was the best-selling brand in the US market in 2005, outpacing Ford for the first time in 19 years,
The Big Three US automakers' sales were down 2 percent overall, while Asian brands' sales climbed 7 percent and European brands fell 3 percent. The total number of vehicles sold in the United States was nearly 17 million, about the same as 2004.
Sales fell 4 percent at both US industry leaders GM and
US automakers also reported disappointing results for December despite a new round of holiday discounts. GM's December sales were down 10 percent, Ford fell 8.7 percent, and Chrysler was down 5 percent as payback from strong summer sales continued. A GM official said last year's strong December made it a difficult comparison.
Asian automakers fared better in December, in part because they didn't offer employee-discounts during the summer. Toyota's December sales were up 8 percent, while Hyundai's were up nearly 16 percent as customers snapped up the 2006 Sonata.
GM's sales decline for the year included a 7 percent decline in car sales and a 2 percent decline in sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Although Chevrolet sales slipped slightly from last year to 2.6 million, they outpaced Ford by around 21,000 vehicles thanks to strong pickup sales and GM's new HHR crossover.
Paul Ballew, GM's executive director of market and industry analysis, said the year-end totals were below the company's expectations. But he said the win for Chevrolet gives the world's largest automaker an important boost. GM lost nearly $4 billion in the first nine months of 2005 as it struggled with high costs and falling US market share.
''It does confirm our ability to produce industry-leading vehicles," Ballew said.
Ford's sales drop for 2005 reflected lower consumer demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles in the face of high gas prices. Chrysler's rise for the year was due to hot-selling models like the Chrysler 300 sedan and the