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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2008

GM falls further back in race to retain world sales crown


DETROIT - General Motors Corp., battling to keep the global sales crown it has held for 77 years, fell further behind Toyota Motor Corp. during the second quarter, figures released yesterday show.

GM sold 2.29 million vehicles, a 5 percent decrease from a year earlier. Toyota had 2.41 million sales, an 1.8 percent increase.

Last year, GM trailed in the first quarter and narrowed the gap in the second before topping Toyota by 3,100 sales for the year.

"There was not quite enough sales volume in these emerging markets to offset weakness in North America, more specifically in the U.S.," GM's chief sales analyst, Mike DiGiovanni, said in a conference call yesterday. "The short-term outlook remains challenging."

U.S. sales for GM fell 21 percent during the April-June period, and Toyota's dropped 7.8 percent. The United States has been a drain on both automakers as record gasoline prices curb demand for larger vehicles such as GM's Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility vehicle and Toyota's Tundra pickup.

GM's sales in North America dropped 20 percent to 963,929 during the second quarter. Toyota didn't provide regional figures.

GM's total increased 15 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, 2.5 percent in Europe, and 18 percent in the Latin American-Africa-Middle East region.

Automakers have been struggling to maintain sales momentum as fuel prices soar.

Toyota has a reputation for high-mileage cars such as its hit gasoline-electric Prius hybrid, but it is still facing the challenge of sluggish markets in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

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