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Early May Sales up 30.2 Percent, Continue Spring Momentum With BC-Auto Sales-Table

May 13, 1993

DETROIT (AP) _ The nation’s automakers said Thursday their sales soared 30.2 percent in early May as cars and trucks continue to pick up momentum in the spring selling season.

For the fourth consecutive 10-day period, passenger car sales were ahead of year-ago levels, indicating they may have finally joined light trucks in the market recovery.

″Sales are excellent,″ said Bob Martin, sales manager at Bell Dodge in Phoenix. ″We feel we’re going to have one of the best years we’ve had in a long time.″

Other dealers were less enthusiastic, but most said showroom traffic has increased as the weather has improved.

″A lot of people think they want to buy a car; they’re not all buying, but they’re showing interest, which is a start,″ said Larry Rotter, sales manager at Schroeder Motors Inc., a Buick dealer in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Car and truck sales have held up despite a decline in consumer confidence.

Domestic cars and trucks in the May 1-10 period sold at a combined annual rate of 11.3 million compared with a 9.7 million combined rate in the same period last year. Including imports, most manufacturers and analysts are predicting total sales of about 13.7 million vehicles this year.

Surprisingly, sales by Japanese automakers with factories in the United States outpaced the U.S. Big Three - General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Corp. - for the first time in recent months. The so-called transplants recorded 34.9 percent higher sales to 29.8 percent higher sales for the Big Three.

Japanese makers have struggled in the U.S. market recently because of higher prices forced by the strength of the Japanese yen vs. the dollar. Japanese manufacturing costs have risen, and those costs have been passed on to customers.

Mazda and Mitsubishi, two of the smallest players in the U.S. market, recorded huge percentage gains in car sales, up 147.4 percent and 122.3 percent respectively. But the percentage gains can be misleading because their share of the market is so small.

Nissan, a slightly larger player, continued to see big year-over-year gains from the popularity of its new Altima sedan. Its 175.7 percent sales gain was largely due to the fact the Altima is domestically built, while its predecessor, the Stanza, was built in Japan and appeared in import sales reported monthly.

Among the Big Three, GM reported higher passenger car sales - up 12.9 percent - for the third consecutive 10-day period.

Chevrolet, which accounts for half of all GM sales, reported a 33.7 percent increase, pushing its year-to-date car sales ahead of last year for the first time - by 1,336 cars or 0.4 percent.

GM light truck sales, including pickups, minivans and sport utility vehicles, were up 50.7 percent.

At Ford, light trucks were up 32.7 percent and cars were up 19.1 percent.

At Chrysler, light trucks were up an estimated 46 percent, and its car sales were up an estimated 61.9 percent, according to the trade journal Ward’s Automotive Reports. Chrysler reports its sales numbers only monthly.

″The new Intrepid is taking off very heavily,″ said Martin, the Dodge dealer in Phoenix. ″It’s a pacesetter in the whole industry.″

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