Trucks Push Vehicle Sales up 6.3 Percent in Early February
DETROIT (AP) _ Sales of domestically built cars and trucks rose 6.3 percent in early February, with light trucks again leading the way, automakers reported Monday.
General Motors Corp. reported its truck sales were up despite publicity about the safety of some of its older pickup trucks.
Only seven of the 10 major U.S. makers, including an estimate of Chrysler Corp., were included in the Feb. 1-10 sales figures because of the Presidents Day holiday.
The sales strength was in pickups, minivans and sport utility trucks.
″Business has just been fair,″ said Ron Smith, general sales manager of Spirit Automotive in Sylacauga, Ala. ″It’s not as fast-moving as we’d like it to be and most dealers I talk to say the same thing. We would think with income tax time coming around, it should be busier than it is.″
Dealers said light trucks, especially those carrying cash rebates or bonus money from the factory to the dealer, are keeping the business going during a typically slow period.
Six of seven companies that sell trucks had better sales than the same period a year ago, leading to a projected annual selling rate of 4.9 million, up slightly from 4.8 million in late January but much better than the projected annual rate of 4.1 million in the same period last year.
Overall, truck sales were up 20.6 percent while car sales were down 2.7 percent.
Car sales, not counting American-built Hondas, Subarus and Mitsubishis, sold at a projected annual rate of 6.4 million, well off the 7.6 million pace of late January, which was the industry’s best in two years. The projected annual rate in early February of 1992 was 6.5 million.
General Motors continued to see its car sales slide, down 22.3 percent, in part because of its decision to cut back on the number of cars it sells at discount to daily rental companies.
GM’s light truck sales, despite negative publicity surrounding a $105 million jury verdict Feb. 4 in a product liability case against its older pickups, rose 6.1 percent.
Apple Valley, Minn., GMC truck dealer Herb Dreitzler said customer reaction has been nil to the verdict and GM’s heavily publicized discrediting of an NBC News ″Dateline″ report about the 1973-87 trucks.
″Nobody’s said anything about it,″ he said.
Ford Motor Co. continued strong sales momentum that led it to have five of the top-selling cars and trucks in the United States last year. Car sales were up 16.4 percent and trucks were up 19.1 percent.
Chrysler, which reports its sales only monthly, had 24.7 percent higher car sales and 40 percent higher truck sales, according to estimates by Ward’s Automotive Reports.
Mazda, Nissan and Toyota all reported higher car sales in the period, which had nine selling days compared with eight selling days in 1992. Isuzu truck sales were also higher.
Combined sales by the four reporting Japanese companies were up 46.9 percent, but wide swings in percentages occur because of their relatively small share of the overall market.
American Honda, Subaru and Mitsubishi did not report their sales Monday.