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BERLIN (AP) _ General Motors Corp., the world's biggest automaker, can continue to offer zero percent financing to boost auto sales without damaging its earnings, vice chairman Robert Lutz said in an interview released Tuesday with a German newspaper.

Countering investors' concern that incentives are eroding profitability, Lutz said that with interest rates low, the financing is cheaper than offering discounts to customers.

Only between 20 percent and 22 percent of customers were actually buying their vehicles under these conditions, he told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview to be published Wednesday.

GM said earlier this month that its U.S. vehicle sales rose 22.6 percent in August from a year ago, partly because of incentive programs introduced after demand dropped following the Sept. 11 attacks last year. Rivals Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG have responded with incentives of their own and have also seen sales improve.

Lutz criticized rival Chrysler's strategy of offering multiyear guarantees as more expensive than zero percent financing and only necessary to combat concerns about quality.

``With quality as it is at Chrysler today, I wonder why they did that,'' said Lutz, who is also head of GM's product development.