Big Three's Sales Slide

December U.S. vehicle sales tumble 9% at Ford, 2.3% at DaimlerChrysler and 10% at GM.
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Updated from 2:49 p.m. EST

Market share continued to slip away from U.S. automakers in December, according to sales reports released Wednesday.

The world's largest automaker,

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, said its U.S. sales fell 10.3% to 392,041 vehicles in December. Car sales dropped 19.4%, and truck sales were down 4.9%.

December marks the fifth straight monthly decline in sales for GM after summer promotions temporarily goosed its results. GM's stock shed 48% in 2005, making it the worst performer in the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, while the company's credit ratings were reduced to junk and its Asian-based competitors continued to encroach on its North American and global market shares.

In addition to declining sales, GM faces spiraling health care and pension costs, rising interest payments and regulatory scrutiny of its accounting practices. Its largest supplier,

Delphi

(DPHIQ)

, filed for bankruptcy and is locked in labor negotiations that, if unsuccessful, could strike a crippling blow at GM.

Kirk Kerkorian, the Vegas mogul who bought a 9.9% stake in the automaker in May with a $31-a-share tender offer, is deep in the red, with GM's shares languishing below $20. His firm, Tracinda, has been unable to negotiate a board seat with the company.

Prospects at the No. 2 U.S. automaker,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

, aren't much brighter. The company reported that its U.S. sales of cars and trucks fell 9% in December, with gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles leading declines. Ford sold 267,881 vehicles in the month, compared with 294,270 vehicles in the same month last year.

Ford shares lost 45% last year. The company's market share declined in concert with its larger counterpart, along with its credit ratings. The company also is struggling under financial obligations on a similar scale as GM. Ford plans to reveal details about its turnaround plans for 2006 later this month.

Elsewhere in Detroit,

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

reported that its U.S. vehicle sales slid 2.3%. The company sold 220,641 vehicles during the month, down from last year's 225,887.

The company's U.S.-based Chrysler Group, which consists of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, posted a 4.9% decline to 189,449 vehicles. This was partly offset by a 17.2% increase in sales of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Soaring gas prices, particularly in the wake of a devastating hurricane season, exacerbated the sales woes of Detroit's so-called Big Three. Consumers have increasingly favored the smaller, more fuel-efficient cars championed by the likes of

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

,

Nissan

(NSANY)

and

Honda

(HMC) - Get Report

.

Toyota, whose production plans indicate it could overtake GM as the world's largest automaker in 2006, posted a sturdy 8.2% gain in U.S. December sales, while Nissan recorded a 1.1% decline.