Strong demand for light trucks from Ford Motor Co. made up for a drop in its U.S. passenger car sales last month, the No. 2 automaker reported Tuesday.
January, meantime, was a banner month for Toyota, which said its sales increased 56 percent over a slow January 1996.
With industry reports for the month now complete, Big Three sales were up 1 percent overall, with truck sales up 2 percent. Percentages are based on the daily sales rate.
Ford said overall sales in January were up 3 percent from last year. While passenger car sales were off 9 percent, sales of pickups, sport utilities and vans were up 13 percent.
Leading the truck gains for Ford was the Expedition. The full-size sport utility vehicle, with a base price of $37,000, tripled sales of the model it replaced, the Bronco.
Bob Rewey, vice president of sales and marketing for Ford, said demand for the Expedition is so strong that some are sold as they are unloaded from trucks, before they reach the showroom floor.
Ford also said Tuesday it will discontinue sales of its slow-selling Aspire subcompact after the 1997 model year. The automaker sold only 133,000 of the cars in the three years since it was introduced.
Toyota found much to crow about in its report. Passenger car sales rose 55 percent, while truck sales were up 56 percent.
Lexus sales doubled, and the new Camry model outsold the Ford Taurus and Honda Accord.
The performance was the best January ever for the No. 1 Japanese automaker.
“Continued consumer confidence, combined with a healthy year-end increase in personal income, and stable interest rates resulted in a strong month for vehicle sales,” said Yale Gieszi, an executive vice president for Toyota’s U.S. subsidiary.
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