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NEW YORK ( -- Sales plunged worse than expected at U.S. automakers in July, allowing import brands to overtake their domestic rivals for the first time, even as weak demand for autos spread to Asian and European manufacturers.

Combined, the U.S. automakers - General Motors, Ford Motor and the Chrysler Group unit that is being sold by DaimlerChrysler - reported a 19 percent decline in sales in July versus a year earlier, compared to single-digit declines or even modest gains reported by most overseas automakers in the period.

The sales left the domestic brands with only 48.1 percent of U.S. sales, down 4 percentage points from a year earlier and off of the previous low, set in June of this year, of 50.2 percent.
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