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Another Slide in Sales for Big Three

December 5, 1989

DETROIT (AP) _ Domestic automakers reported a 9.3 percent decline in late-November vehicle sales Tuesday, extending a slide that began when they introduced more expensive 1990 models a few months ago.

The decline was led by a 24 percent drop in General Motors Corp. car sales and seemed to reflect consumer reluctance to spend or borrow large amounts of money for a new vehicle. That trend can be worrisome because it often signals a sharp economic downturn.

″There’s not a lot of excitement left in the industry,″ said auto analyst Paul Kleinaitis of Duff & Phelps Inc. in Chicago. ″Everybody’s got sort of the same cars.″

The eight major automakers reported they sold cars and light trucks at an average daily rate of 37,059 during the Nov. 21-30 period this year, compared with a rate of 40,843 during the same time last year.

Car sales were down 12.5 percent and light truck sales were off 3.8 percent.

GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp., which make up more than three- quarters of the North American-produced auto market, reported their combined car and truck sales fell 14 percent during the period this year compared with last year.

For the month of November, including imported cars and trucks, vehicle sales fell 11.9 percent, with car sales dropping 13.5 percent and light truck sales off 8.5 percent.

Through the first 11 months of this year, domestic and import car and truck sales were running 4.5 percent behind last year, with car sales down 5 percent and light truck sales off 3.2 percent.

GM said sales of its North American-built cars fell 24 percent and light truck sales declined 15.1 percent.

″Since about the first of October, we’ve had less traffic,″ said Frank DeBartolo, general sales manager of Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet-Geo in Elmhurst, Ill. ″The last quarter has taken quite a bite out of us.″

Last summer, automakers were faced with swollen new-car inventories and they wooed buyers with big incentive packages. Those incentives, coupled with news of pending price increases for the 1990 models introduced in early October, convinced some people to buy 1989s instead.

″What we’re seeing now, however, is more than ‘payback’ for the pull- ahead,″ said Ford’s sales vice president Robert Rewey. ″Some prospective buyers are deferring purchases due to uncertainty about the economic outlook.

″More than anything else, that uncertainty is fueled by high interest rates,″ he said.

Others were more optimistic. DeBartolo said he expected the 1990 sales slump to end in a month or twoa.

″As far as the economy goes, everything is stable,″ he said. ″There’s nothing drastic that’s going to happen.″

GM’s combined domestic car and truck sales were down 21.1 percent in late November this year compared with last year. For the entire year, GM’s car and truck sales were down 5.5 percent.

Ford said its late-November vehicle sales were 6.1 percent behind last year’s pace, as car sales dropped 8.7 percent and light truck sales fell 2.6 percent.

Through November of this year, Ford’s car and truck sales were running 2.6 percent lower than during the first 11 months of last year.

Chrysler said its late-November car sales fell 15.7 percent but its truck sales during the period rose 1.6 percent, combining for a 7 percent decrease. Year-to-date sales of Chrysler cars and light trucks were running 6.4 percent below last year’s pace.

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