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Toyota May Be No. 1 Selling Car in U.S.

January 2, 2007

With final 2006 sales figures expected out today, U.S. automakers face the possibility that this may be the last time a U.S. automaker ranks No. 1 in U.S. auto sales, the Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday.

Fast-rising sales at Toyota, currently third among auto brands, will likely make the Japanese automaker bypass both companies this year. Ford Motor Co. is also plotting a course to shrink its market share to become profitable.

Edmunds.com, a research Web site for car buyers that tracks sales data from dealers, is predicting a stunning 19.6 percent drop in Ford sales compared with last December, based on data from the first half of the month. Bank of America analyst Ronald Tadross expects Ford's dip to be in the 10 to 12 percent range.

The article quoted Ford sales analyst George Pipas as saying, “We are focused on getting our business profitable. We can't be distracted by sales races and sales rankings. That stuff is not even on our radar screen.”

General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division is selling hard but may be passed by Toyota Motor Corp., the newspaper said.

At the end of 2006, Chevrolet outsold Ford by 23,000 vehicles in November, so a strong December could put Chevy on top for the year, perhaps the last time for a U.S. brand.

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