March, first quarter sales slump for Big 3, Toyota

March has seen U.S. vehicle sales declines from the Detroit big three that are Chrysler, Ford and GM as well as the giant from Japan that is Toyota, no doubt a result of rising fuel prices and an economy that seems to be on a crash course. It was GM's worst March since it kept records, with a decline of 18.7 percent from the same time last year, while Ford's sales declined by 14.1. Chrysler took the cake with a 19.4 percent decline, though company representatives attribute at least some of that to slowing fleet sales in an attempt to keep resale prices up. Toyota sold only 10.3 percent less vehicles than it did in March of 2007. Truck sales dropped more, as a percentage, than cars, suggesting higher fuel prices are taking their toll on gas-guzzlers.

Toyota also fared best of the four in terms of lowest declines in the first quarter of 2008. Toyota vehicle sales, including Scion and Lexus, fell 5.6 percent in the first quarter of 2008. The Camry and Prius did post record March sales numbers.

GM is down 10.9 percent thus far in year-to-year numbers, but executive promises the company will move what it originally estimated for 2008: an estimated 15.3 million vehicles thanks to "stimulus" packages.

Chrysler sales in Q1 fell by 15.5 percent, with a 22 percent decline in truck sales responsible for that, as car sales actually increased in the three-month period by 4 percent. Traditionally, Chrysler sells nearly three times as many trucks as cars, as numbers include the Jeep and Dodge brands, both line-ups of which are truck-heavy.

Ford sales fell 9.0 percent compared to Q1 in 2007, largely due to slowing truck sales. In March, the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the Blue Oval line-up, including the Escape crossover small SUV, were the only ones which sold more than last year. Ford fears the worst is still ahead, according to Automotive News.