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U.S.A.:Toyota passes Ford as No. 2; six-month sales tally signals a new order

By JAMES R. CRATE | Automotive News

Continuing its steady sales climb, Toyota Motor Corp. squeezed past Ford Motor Co. by 43,000 vehicles in the first six months of its fiscal year to become the world's second-biggest automaker.

Reporting its financial results for the six months ended Sept. 30, Toyota said it sold 3.170 million cars and trucks worldwide. That's up 7.4 percent from the year-ago period.

Ford sold 3.127 million units over the same six months, which are its second and third quarters. That was down 10.9 percent.

Toyota's figures include sales by two subsidiaries, minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truckmaker Hino Motors Ltd.

Ford's numbers include its luxury group: Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.

Toyota says it expects to sell 6.57 million vehicles worldwide in fiscal 2003, up 7.5 percent. If so, it seems likely that Toyota will maintain its sales momentum.

But Toyota's lead will not necessarily last for its full fiscal year. And it does not guarantee that Toyota will pass Ford for calendar year 2003.

For the nine-month period through September, Ford still leads Toyota by 100,464 units, according to the Automotive News Data Center. But Ford's lead has narrowed dramatically from the year-ago period, when it led Toyota by 748,300 units.

Still, the comparison is an important signpost to the changing order of the world auto industry. General Motors remains the world's largest automaker. But GM and Ford both have struggled to maintain market share in North America, Europe and South America.

Buoyed by steadily rising sales in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia, Toyota has been closing in on Ford and GM since the early 1990s.

In 1996, GM's worldwide sales totaled 8.40 million units, according to the Data Center.

The same year, Ford registered sales of 6.65 million units and Toyota's sales totaled 4.75 million.

Six years later, GM's sales were virtually flat at 8.50 million units. Ford's sales were stuck at 6.82 million units, even though it included 650,000 units from new acquisitions Volvo, Aston Martin and Land Rover. Last year, Toyota sold 6.17 million units globally.

Thus, over a six-year period, Toyota had narrowed GM's lead by roughly 1 million units and Ford's lead by 1.4 million units.

"They're tough, formidable competitors, and you've got to respect them," said Ford spokesman Jim Bright.

"I think it sends a message to us and to the entire team. So we will just continue on focusing on what it takes to make us successful and keep us successful." Ford remains focused on its revitalization plan, another company official said.

He said the company aims to achieve its profit targets rather than maintain its ranking as the world's No. 2 automaker.

Staff Reporters Yuzo Yamaguchi and Amy Wilson contributed to this report

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

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