US car sales continue sharp slide in January

US car sales tumbled by more than 30 per cent in January, with struggling domestic carmakers continuing to lead the way as consumers cut back sharply on spending, dpa reported.

The US "Big Three" all reported declines of 40 per cent or more compared to January 2007. General Motors Corp dropped 49 per cent, Ford Motor Co fell 40 per cent and Chrysler LLC declined 55 per cent.

Japanese makers did only a little better. Toyota Motor Corp fell 34 per cent in January from the year before, while its rival Honda Motor Co was down 31 per cent. Nissan Motor Co fell 30 per cent.

German carmaker Daimler AG said sales of its US Mercedes-Benz division were down 36 per cent.

Hyundai Motor Co was the only large carmaker that posted an increase in sales, with a 14-per-cent jump.

GM reported a 58-per-cent drop in car sales and a 43-per-cent decline in sales of light trucks. The carmaker said it will cut its first-quarter production in North America by 57 per cent.

Last month, Toyota raced past GM to become the world's largest car manufacturer, a position the US car giant held for 77 years.

Both GM and Chrysler have received emergency government loans to stave off bankruptcy.

"We're attacking this unprecedented market as aggressively as possible," GM vice president Mark LaNeve said in a statement. He said a "bright spot" was that GM's market share in the US held steady at 21 per cent.

The poor sales data continues a trend that began in October, as the near-collapse of the US financial industry curbed demand and prevented consumers from obtaining car loans from banks. The fourth quarter of 2008 saw sales plummet about 35 per cent, the worst result in more than 25 years.

"We are still facing unprecedented times in the industry, and no auto company is immune from current market conditions," Dick Colliver, executive vice president of sales for American Honda, said in a statement.

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