Vol. 5 Num 926 Sat. January 06, 2007  

US auto industry braces tough '07

The US auto industry heads into its annual party facing intensifying pressure from Asian rivals and an economic slowdown that threatens to worsen its financial woes.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG are braced for a difficult year despite promising exciting new products at the Detroit auto show, which opens to the press Sunday.

Sales data out Wednesday showed that Japan's Toyota sold a record 2.54 million vehicles in the United States in 2006, making it more popular than Chrysler and not far behind Ford.

Toyota's total US market share came to 15.4 percent for the year, supplanting DaimlerChrysler, with 12.9 percent. Ford had 16.4 percent and GM 24.3 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

GM and Ford are shedding thousands of jobs and closing plants in a bid to rescue their troubled North American operations, which have been losing cash and market share for years.