Toyota overtook Ford to become the No. 2 automaker by U.S. sales in 2007, using new products and a relentless strategy to break Ford's...

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DETROIT — Toyota overtook Ford to become the No. 2 automaker by U.S. sales in 2007, using new products and a relentless strategy to break Ford’s 75-year lock on the position.

Toyota sold 2.62 million cars and trucks in 2007, which amounted to 48,226 more than Ford, according to sales figures released today. Toyota’s sales were up 3 percent for the year, buoyed by new products like the Toyota Tundra pickup, which saw sales jump 57 percent. Ford’s sales fell 12 percent to 2.572 million vehicles.

General Motors remained the U.S. sales leader, selling 3.82 million vehicles in 2007. But that was down 6 percent from the previous year as customers turned away from some large sedans and sport-utility vehicles and GM cut low-profit sales to employees and rental-car agencies. GM’s car sales fell 8 percent for the year while truck sales were down 4 percent.

Overall, the year was expected to be the worst for the auto industry since 1998 as consumers fretted over high gas prices, falling home prices and the economy.

Ford’s car sales plummeted 24 percent for all of 2007 as some models like the Ford Mustang aged and a new Ford Taurus sedan was unable to match the volumes of the older version. Ford also cut rental-car sales by 32 percent over the year. Truck sales were down 5 percent.

Ford corporate historian Bob Kreipke said it was the first time since 1931 that Ford wasn’t second behind GM in U.S. sales.

Jim Farley, who recently became Ford’s global marketing chief after a career at Toyota, said the new numbers won’t change Ford’s recovery plan.

“In fact, it actually accelerates the way we’re running the business,” Farley said this morning. “It accentuates the difference between how we’re running the business and how our competitors are running the business. It requires us to stick to the plan, no doubt, but it also requires us to really accelerate the development of new products.”

Farley pointed out that Ford had some hits in 2007, particularly its Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossover vehicles. Ford crossovers grew 62 percent over the year, far outpacing the industrywide average of 17 percent, the company said.