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GM 3Q global sales drop 11 percent, trail Toyota

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BREE FOWLER
October 29, 2008
— General Motors Corp. said Wednesday that reduced demand in the U.S. and Western Europe helped push the company's third-quarter worldwide sales down 11 percent, as GM fell further behind Toyota Motor Corp. for this year's No. 1 global sales spot.

GM sold 2.11 million vehicles in the third quarter, while Toyota's sales for the period fell 4 percent to 2.24 million. The results bring GM's total sales for January-September to 6.66 million vehicles compared with Toyota's 7.05 million.


GM said sales declines in the United States and Western Europe offset strong demand from emerging markets. Sales outside of the U.S. grew by 164,000 vehicles in the first nine months of the year.


Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, said the same economic woes that have resulted in steep drops in U.S. sales this year spread to western Europe during the recent quarter.


North American sales dropped 18.9 percent during the quarter, while overall European sales fell 12.3 percent.


DiGiovanni said that while sales growth in emerging markets may be slowing, it's still significant. GM reported third-quarter sales increases of 15.1 percent in Russia, 15.5 percent in Brazil, 12 percent in China and 5 percent in India.


"We can't overact to some of some of the snowballing effects that have happened in the markets these past few weeks," DiGiovanni said in a conference call. "There's a lot of positive fundamentals going on around the world that are laying the bed for future growth."


Sales outside of North America accounted for 61 percent of GM's total third-quarter sales, up from 56 percent in the same period last year.


Japan-based Toyota has been vying with GM to be the world's biggest automaker by global sales. Last year, Toyota's group sales including those from minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck maker Hino Motors Ltd. rose to 9.366 million vehicles, just shy of GM's 9.37 million.


Toyota's drop in third-quarter sales, which it also attributed to weak U.S. demand along with sluggish sales in its home country, marked its first year-over-year decline in the July through September period since 2001, the company said.


Toyota had posted strong U.S. sales earlier this year, as high gas prices drove consumers to its smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, but its September U.S. sales fell 32 percent.


For the first nine months of this year, GM's U.S. sales were down 18 percent, while Toyota sales were down 10 percent.


In midday trading, GM shares rose 18 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $6.43, while Toyota's U.S. shares rose 89 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $71.87.



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