DETROIT: The US credit squeeze and sub-prime mortgage turmoil have taken their toll on the nation's automotive industry as visitors to dealer lots became harder to spot last month.

The Ford Motor Company suffered most from the September slide in sales when it shifted fewer than 190,000 vehicles, 21% lower year on year. It is also struggling to keep hold of its near 15% share of the domestic market.

The company says a 62% reduction in rental fleet sales was partly to blame. It has been trying to cut back on this type of business which can impact on brand image and profits.

Ford sales analyst George Pipas commented: "At the very beginning of the year, we said planned reductions in daily rental were of such a magnitude that we expected a sales decline every month this year.

"What has transpired has been in line with what our expectations were at the beginning of the year."

Figures from researcher Autodata show Chrysler Group's vehicle sales also declined by 5.4% compared with the same month last year.

Even the seemingly invincible Japanese giant, Toyota, reported a 4% slide - driven by a fall in truck sales numbers - but it still outpaced Ford for the month.

Number one US automaker General Motors saw its sales hold steady - fuelled by a raft of new models.

Japanese rivals Honda and Nissan bucked the downward trend with increases of 9.4% and 6.7%, respectively. In common with GM they have unveiled updated models such as Honda's Accord sedan and Nissan's redesigned Altima sedan.

European luxury marques such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover all posted positive results as wealthier buyers were less affected by high gas prices and credit crunches.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff