Updated from 12:29 p.m. ESTGeneral Motors ( GM) and Ford ( F) wrapped up 2007 with another month of U.S. sales declines, ending a dreary year for the automakers as each grappled with a consumer slowdown, soaring oil prices and tough competition. With the declines from Detroit, Japan's Toyota Motor ( TM) surpassed Ford as the nation's No. 2 automaker for the year. For December, GM's U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 4.4% to 319,837 units. Car sales tumbled 10% to 116,583 vehicles, partly reflecting a plan to cut lower-margin sales to rental firms. Light-truck sales, meanwhile, fell 0.8% to 203,254 trucks. For all of 2007, GM recorded a 6% drop in U.S. sales to 3.82 million vehicles. Ford, meanwhile, posted a 9.2% drop in December sales to 212,094 vehicles. Truck sales tumbled 9.5% to 147,443 vehicles, and car sales sank 8.4% to 64,651 units. Retail sales dropped 13% for the month, while fleet sales were down 1%. Toyota surpassed Ford for the month with sales of 224,399 vehicles. While that was a decrease of 1.7% from a year earlier, the results were enough to make the Japanese giant the year's No. 2 automaker in the U.S. -- a position that Ford had held since 1931, according to the Associated Press. Toyota ended the year with U.S. sales of 2.62 million vehicles, a 2% rise from a year earlier. Ford's domestic sales for 2007 slid 12% to 2.57 million vehicles.
The sales declines for Ford and GM come as the companies are undergoing multiyear restructuring programs to better position themselves to compete with foreigners like Toyota, which operates with far lower costs. As well, the U.S. housing slump has crimped consumer spending, while surging oil prices have cut demand for Detroit companies' big trucks. The outlook isn't much better for the current year as these issues continue. Ford said it expects the economic environment to remain "challenging" in 2008. Against this backdrop, both Ford and GM are trading at 52-week lows. Shares of Ford recently were down 14 cents, or 2.1%, to $6.46, while GM was sliding 56 cents, or 2.3%, to $23.85.