Big Three get March 2007 U.S. sales beating, Toyota cheers


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Big Three get March 2007 U.S. sales beating, Toyota cheers:
Reuters said:
DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. posted lower March U.S. sales on Tuesday, dragged down by weak truck demand and expected cuts to car rental companies, while Asian rivals led by Toyota Motor Corp. continued to make inroads in the market.

General Motors sales fell 7.7 percent and Ford's were off by 12.4 percent, as its critical F-Series pickup truck sales dropped 15 percent.

Chrysler Group, the troubled U.S. unit of DaimlerChrysler AG also reported a fall of 8 percent in March, when adjusted for the number of sales days in comparable periods.

Toyota, which is expected to overtake GM as the world's largest automaker as soon as this year, posted a 7.7-percent increase in March on the strength of its sedans, including the Prius hybrid car, and crossovers or car-based sports utility vehicles.

"It's similar to what we've been seeing over the last several months, with high fuel prices and competition from the Asian companies," said Thomas Leritz, portfolio manager with Clayton, Missouri-based Argent Capital Management, which owns GM bonds and preferred shares.

Leritz said that, on the bright side, GM is sticking to its strategy to cut discounted sales to daily rental companies. GM shares closed up 2.1 percent at $31.47 on the New York Stock Exchange.

"Looking at March sales and for the first quarter, we are seeing increasing consumer preference toward smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, which will mean that we probably are going to see increased incentive spending for large SUVs going into the summer," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with

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