DETROIT: For the first time in history America's big three automakers - General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler - failed to command 50% of the market in July.

According to figures compiled by Autodata, even the seemingly unstoppable Toyota experienced a 7% sales decline, as did Japanese compatriot Honda.

But the plunge was greater yet for the indigenous trio: GM sales slid by 22%, Ford by 19%, and Chrysler by 8.4%

Sales across all brands totalled 15.54 million vehicles - the weakest July pace since 1998, and down year-on-year by 6.15% from 16.56m vehicles in 2006

Automakers fear that the subprime debt situation and continued housing-market weakness could cause annual industry sales to drop by several hundred thousand light vehicles for 2007.

The one ray of light is in the luxury market, where the likes of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are relatively unaffected by the malaise as yet - although the current weakness of the dollar is beginning to cause pain in the sector.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff