DETROIT, Jan. 5 (UPI) - U.S. automakers sold a record 17 million cars and trucks in 1999 and were poised to lock horns in a new rebate war over market share.
General Motors Corp. fired the first shot this week mailing out millions of $500 rebate coupons to owners of GM vehicles and prospective buyers good for purchase of a new car, truck or SUV, extended service or warranty plan. DaimlerChrysler, Ford and other automakers were expected to match the deal.
DaimlerChrysler AG reported back-to-back sales record years as U.S. dealers moved 2,638,561 Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge and Jeep vehicles in 1999, a 5 percent increase over the previous record of 2,510,011 vehicles sold in 1998.
Mercedes-Benz sold 189,011 vehicles, an 11 percent increase, making Mercedes the top-selling luxury nameplate.
DamilerChryster had record December sales of 204,754 vehicles, up 1 percent from 1998. Light truck, minivan and Jeep sales rose 7 percent to a record 1,893,286 vehicles sold.
Jeep sales jumped an impressive 21 percent over last year to 554,466 units, including a record 300,031 Grand Cherokee vehicles. Sales of Dodge Ram pickups increased 5 percent to a record 428,930 units.
"We are very excited about our second-straight all-time record sales of our Chrysler, Plymouth, Jeep and Dodge brands," said executive vice president, global sales and marketing Theodor R. Cunningham. "With our record December sales, we ended 1999 on a high note, with record levels for eight months of the year."
Toyota, Japan's leading automaker, saw December sales drop 12 percent but posted record sales for the third straight year with 1.48 million vehicles sold, an 8.4 percent increase. The Toyota Camry remained the best-selling car in the United States with sales of 448,262 units.
Lexus sales rose 19 percent to a record 185,890 cars and SUVs.
Honda sales increased 6 percent in December and 6.7 percent for the year to a record 1.08 million vehicles.
Nissan sales rose 7 percent in December and 9 percent for 1999. Mitsubishi sold a record 261,254 vehicles, up 37 percent. Sales of the mid-sized Galant sedan jumped 69 percent to 74,782 cars.
Volkswagen AG had its best year since 1974 with a 44 percent rebound in sales to 315,563 vehicles as demand remained strong for new Beetle, Jetta and Passat models.
Audi sales rose 39 percent.
Ford and GM report their sales Wednesday. -- --