General Motors and Ford Motor Company each reported lower US sales in February, down year-on-year by 2.5% and 4% respectively.

But there was some consolation for GM as its big SUVs - notably the recently-launched Chevrolet Tahoe, the Cadillac Escalade and the Hummer H3 - all recorded robust sales.

Preliminary estimates show total US car and light truck sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual 16.8 million vehicles last month, from 16.3m in February 2005.

  • Meantime, rubbing salt into an open wound, Asian manufacturers not only topped their US rivals quantity-wise, they also swept the board on quality criteria, according to the Consumers Union annual Auto Report.

    The report ranked performance, comfort, safety and fuel economy - basing these on tests of over two hundred models. In all ten vehicle categories Japanese cars topped the list.

    Honda is the report's first choice for low and mid-priced cars and minivans, also for pick-up trucks, a segment previously dominated by the three Detroit carmakers.

    Honda's luxury brand, Acura, is ranked top among cars priced between $30,000 and $40,000, while the remaining six categories are shared by Toyota, Subaru and Nissan's luxury Infiniti marque. Among the larger SUVs, Toyota's Highlander hybrid won the day.

  • Honda, meantime, is planning to expand its North American production by 10% in the hope of averting political fallout blaming Japanese automakers for the woes of the indigenous industry. The company attributes its failure to meet the 80% local production target to the success of its latest Civic range - all imported from Japan.

    Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff