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Ford loses out to Toyota in sales

Detroit, Nov. 11 (Reuters): For the first time, Toyota Motor Corp gained the title of world’s second-largest auto maker in the third quarter as it outsold Ford Motor Co by 166,000 vehicles.

While Ford still holds the year-to-date sales lead by a slim margin, its forecast of lower fourth-quarter production might make it possible for Toyota to claim the title for all of 2003.

According to data from Toyota’s financial results, it sold 1,576,000 vehicles worldwide in the third quarter, while Ford sold 1,410,000. Toyota’s sales included its Hino and Daihatsu units, while Ford’s sales included its foreign luxury brands — Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.

For the first nine months of 2003, Ford still ranks as the world’s second-largest auto maker with a lead of about 26,000 vehicles, with 4,844,000 sold compared with Toyota’s 4,818,000. Both are well behind General Motors Corp, the world’s largest auto maker, which sold 6.4 million vehicles in the same period.

The third quarter is typically the weakest for US auto makers, as they shut down factories for vacations and new-model changeovers. But Ford’s third-quarter global sales were down 15 per cent, due to sluggish sales in Europe, the elimination of slow-selling models in the United States and the lack of new products — all problems Toyota has not had. Through October, Toyota was the top-selling passenger car brand in the US, with sales up 5.4 per cent. The Ford brand, which has held the title for many years, was down 7.6 per cent.

While Ford has not projected sales for all of 2003, it has estimated fourth-quarter production would fall by 26,000 vehicles to 1,545,000. Chairman and chief executive, Bill Ford Jr, had said this year that the size of the company founded by his great-grandfather was less important to him than restoring its financial health.

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