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GM sales fall in November; Ford brakes yearlong skid

November was the first month this year that Ford's sales did not decline from the same month a year ago. November was the first month this year that Ford's sales did not decline from the same month a year ago. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
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Associated Press / December 4, 2007

DETROIT - Automakers reported mixed US sales results for November yesterday, with some new or more fuel-efficient models performing well despite consumer malaise over high gas prices and the weak economy.

But even with rising sales of small cars and crossovers, the industry is predicting things will get worse in 2008. General Motors Corp. said yesterday it is cutting scheduled first-quarter production by 11 percent, while Ford Motor Co. said it would cut scheduled production by 7 percent. Ford's top US sales analyst, George Pipas, said the automaker is predicting sales will be at their slowest pace in a decade in the first half of 2008.

GM shares dropped $1.26, or 4.2 percent, to $28.571 and Ford declined 26 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $7.25.

GM, the biggest automaker by US sales, said its November sales dropped 11 percent, hurt by falling demand for trucks as well as cuts in sales to low-profit rental car fleets, while Chrysler LLC said sales fell 2 percent. Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. both reported flat sales for the month. Honda Motor Co.'s sales were up 5 percent while Nissan Motor Co.'s sales rose 6 percent.

"Rising fuel prices and sliding home values delivered a one-two punch this month," Jim Lentz, president of Toyota's US sales arm, said in a statement. "But the industry's not down for the count. Demand for fresh, more fuel-efficient products continues to show strength."

GM's November truck sales fell 15 percent, a casualty of the slowing pace of new home construction, while car sales declined 4 percent. GM said it also cut sales to low-margin rental fleets by 29 percent compared with last November. GM's sales were down 6 percent for the first 11 months of the year.

Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American sales, service, and marketing, said GM wasn't competitive enough on its incentive spending for 2008 model year pickup trucks. He said the company wants to remain disciplined about incentives but could ramp up spending. Edmunds.com, the automotive information site, said GM spent an average of $3,136 per vehicle on incentives in November, lower than Ford and Chrysler but above its Asian rivals.

"We will make sure we vigorously defend our truck position," LaNeve said.

Ford's November results ended a yearlong string of losses. Every month this year, sales compared badly to 2006, when it was still selling thousands of its old Taurus sedans to rental fleets. But Oct. 31 marked one year since the end of production of that sedan.

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