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Toyota Expected to Win April Car Sales Race

Douglas A. McIntyre

With General Motors Co. (GM) in trouble, the nation's other car sales leaders have a chance to take market share from America's No.1. The erosion in GM's sales may have already begun in April. And Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) appears to have benefited, with April sales expected to rise 14% over April 2013 to 200,748.

Toyota's improvement places it just shy in sales to the perennial No.2, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F). Ford's sales are expected to rise only 4.6% to 221,787, according to projections from Edmunds.com. It has been years since Toyota's sales approached Ford's -- at least since a slew of recalls hurt the Japanese company's image. Ford particularly will continue to lose some of its edge, if the sales of the company's flagship F-150 struggles because of consumer rejection of its  upgraded model.

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GM's sales are expected to rise the least compared to April 2013 to 248,713, with the exception of Honda Motor Co. (HMC). Honda's will improve only 1.3% from a year ago to 132,739.

If GM is the big loser and Toyota the big winner, Chrysler Group is likely to be the most consistent in sales among the group of largest manufacturers. Its sales should rise 12.3% to 175,945. Chrysler typically finishes among the companies with largest sales increases, and has been for the last two years. Some industry experts find the success surprising, particularly because Chrysler usually gets poor quality ratings

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And the regularly monthly laggard among big auto companies remains so. Volkswagen AG's sales are expected to increase 7.2% to 50,187. VW's management has said on several occasions that it expects to catch GM and Toyota as the top car company in the world. Without success in the U.S. market, however, that goal will be impossible to achieve. And for the time being, VW lags virtually every other car company with  large presence in America.

U.S. April sales across the industry are expected to rise 9.1% year over year, to 1,401,606. While this seems impressive and looks to be the best April showing since 2006, it is a marked slowing from 2012 and 2013, the remarkable period of recovery from the recession. However, enough people have replaced the cars they continued to hold during the recession, and the economy is soft enough so that 2014 will not look like either of those years.

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