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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
US car firms lose out to rivals
Leonardo DiCaprio in his Toyota Prius
Even stars like Leonardo DiCaprio are turning to the Prius
US carmaking giants Ford and General Motors (GM) have failed to put the brakes on falling sales as they continue to lose out to foreign rivals.

GM the country's leading car maker revealed US sales fell 7.4% in April compared to the same time last year.

Ford, the second largest US car group, also unveiled a 5.1% drop in sales.

Meanwhile, Japan's Nissan and Toyota continued to gobble up more US market shares with US sales rising by 27% and 21% respectively in April.

Consumer appetite for hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles continues unabated
Jim Press, Toyota

The rise was Toyota's best monthly performance in the US.

US consumers, battling against rising fuel prices, have been turning their backs on large "gas guzzling" sports utility vehicles (SUVs) for some months.

Green lure

Sales of Ford SUVs fell sharply in April with company officials blaming rising prices at gasoline (petrol) pumps - even cheap loan offers and big rebates have failed to lure more buyers.

Toyota also admitted sales of its big truck-based SUV models were suffering steep declines.

But the falls could also have come at the expense of an increase in sales of its gas-electric Prius hybrid, which recorded a 196% surge in sales.

"Consumer appetite for hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles continues unabated," Jim Press, Toyota executive vice president and chief operating officer of North American sales said.

Sales hopes

GM's fall in sales came hard on the heels of the company unveiling a $1.1bn net loss for the first three months of 2005, but despite the bad news the company remained upbeat.

"High-volume sedans such as the Pontiac G6, Chevrolet Cobalt and Buick LaCrosse are vital to our success in the marketplace," Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for North American sales, service and marketing said.

"We are beginning to show significant year-over-year gains with our launch cars compared to the models they replaced."

Meanwhile, Ford's vice president for North American marketing, sales and service Steve Lyons said only low vehicle stockpiles was holding it back - particularly for its Mustang car model.

Sales of the Mustang remained strong with 19,559 cars sold - its highest level for April since 1980.

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