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Ford bests Toyota & other auto/tax news

Well, here's an unexpected bright spot for U.S. automakers:
Ford outsold Toyota for the first time in at least a year.

Of course, the rest of the story isn't really that that positive. The American automaker didn't best its Japanese counterpart. Rather, Ford didn't have as big a drop-off in sales as Toyota.

But, hey, any straw for an industry that's grasping.

Toyota saw a 42 percent decline in April, while Ford's U.S. sales fell "just" 32 percent. Meanwhile, the country's top-selling car maker, General Motors Corp., reported a 33 percent drop.

Bankruptcy bargains: Meanwhile, Chrysler is now dealing with bankruptcy. That might be why a Chrysler Dodge dealer in Spring, a Houston suburb, is offering 45 percent off all Dodge Ram trucks.

If you don't live in the Houston area, other Chrysler dealers across the country might be using the same price-cut approach to get auto buyers to at least take a look. If you're a decent haggler, you could drive off with a half-price new truck. When's the last time anyone was able to say that?

Lower price plus tax breaks: There's no 2009 Ram truck on the IRS list of vehicles eligible for the hybrid tax break. However, this year's Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrids will each get buyers a $2,200 tax credit. 

Those vehicles are just part of a decent-sized group of 2009 hybrids from a variety of automakers that could pay off for purchasers at tax time.

A quick note about the IRS hybrid list referenced in the previous paragraph. That list was dated March 19. Although it doesn't say so, it looks to be for use when filing 2008 returns. The reason I suspect that is because Honda hybrids purchased in 2009 are no longer eligible for the tax credit. This year marked the complete phaseout of that automaker's hybrid credit. But if you bought a 2009 model last year, you can claim the final, lowest credit amount on your 2008 return, which you might be filing as late as Oct. 15 if you got an extension.

Many other makes and models, however, could still provide you with a tax credit. And that's in addition to the just-enacted sales tax deduction for new car purchases. Not a bad doubling up of tax savings.

Doing the racing double: Speaking of doubling up, my May racing column discusses why NASCAR drivers should be part of two races on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. 

You can check out why this fendered/open wheel option needs to return in "Doing Double Duty" in my Truckers News'  Views from the Grandstands column.

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