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Toyota Comes Close to Outselling Chrysler in U.S.

September 5, 2001

Symptomatic of the big gains import automakers are making among American consumers, Chrysler and its Dodge and Jeep brands outsold Toyota and its Lexus luxury division by just 5,637 vehicles in August, the smallest margin ever. While Chrysler's sales fell 24.1 percent compared to August of 2000, Toyota's sales were up 7.2 percent. The U.S. market share of the "Big Three" -- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler -- has fallen this year to near record-low levels below 64 percent. With Toyota in the midst of launching a plethora of new models, and Chrysler struggling to return to profitability, the gap may only get smaller in the near future. Just as trucks carried the Big Three to record profits in the last decade, new pickups and sport utility vehicles are powering Toyota now. In August, the Japanese automaker sold 9,022 Highlander and 5,831 Sequoia SUVs - both of which are less than a year old - while doubling sales of its small RAV4 SUV. Meanwhile, Chrysler saw sales of its Jeep Grand Cherokee plummet 40 percent, while its Dodge Durango dropped 35 percent. Chrysler had said it wanted to hold onto 14 percent of the U.S. market this year, and managed to hold 13.9 percent through July. It's not just truck buyers looking away from Detroit. Import automakers have captured almost half of the market for passenger cars in the United States this year, outselling the Big Three in July. And the competition isn't going to let up soon, according to industry analysts. Toyota just began shipping new versions of its Camry and Lexus ES 300 sedans to dealers, and has a new mini-SUV called Matrix on the way early next year. Soon to follow are new versions of its small Corolla car, Sienna minivan and 4Runner SUV. Meanwhile, Chrysler's next all-new vehicle, a Highlander-like SUV code-named CS, isn't due until early 2003.
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