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Big 3 Auto Makers Post Mixed Sales

October 2, 2002

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DETROIT (AP) _ America’s incentive-induced vehicle-buying frenzy slowed last month, but many automakers still recorded robust sales gains over last September.

DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group saw both car and truck sales jump 18 percent last month, while Ford Motor Co. had mixed results and General Motors Corp. saw a double-digit sales decline, the automakers said Tuesday.

Many analysts had forecast that domestic auto sales last month would be slightly higher than September 2001 _ when the terrorist attacks rattled the economy _ but down considerably from the past few months as dealers sell their remaining 2002 vehicles.

GM said its September sales were softer than expected, off an overall 12.7 percent.

The world’s largest automaker sold 136,393 cars for the month, down 17.4 percent from the same month last year. Trucks fared a little better, off 8.5 percent, with total sales of 171,147 last month.

Percentages are based on the daily sales rate. September 2001 had 25 selling days, two more than last month.

``When you consider our exceptional sales performance in July and August, lean inventories and the competitive environment, we expected there would be some weakening in September sales,″ said Bill Lovejoy, GM’s group vice president for North American vehicle sales, service and marketing.

Automakers have battled for customers during the past year with zero-percent financing, rebates and others offers, providing a boost to U.S. auto sales during a generally weak economy.

David Healy, an industry analyst with Burnham Securities Inc., said GM was bitten by its decision to stop offering interest-free financing on 2002 models in early September.

``I think you could say they were paying the piper,″ Healy said. ``They simply cleaned out their inventory of popular models.″

Chrysler, on the other hand, rebounded from a poor September 2001 in which it lagged behind its competitors in offering incentive plans.

Chrysler sold 39,984 cars last month, up 17.6 percent from September 2001. Truck sales, led by the Dodge Ram, jumped 18.3 percent to 125,413.

Digesting the figures, industry observers predicted a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of about 16.3 million vehicles, well below the torrid pace of 18 million-plus in July and August.

Overseas automakers enjoyed positive results.

Hyundai Motor America said it sold a record 30,257 vehicles. Also posting positive year-over-year sales numbers were Honda Motor Co. (16 percent), Nissan North America Inc. (9.5 percent) and Toyota Motor Corp. (4.2 percent).

Ford’s car sales, excluding its luxury brands, were at 87,412 in September, down 5.8 percent from the year-ago period. Truck sales were up 5.6 percent year-over-year at 176,217. Together, factoring in the two fewer sales days last month, Ford saw an overall increase of 1.6 percent.

A bright spot for the Dearborn-based automaker was its luxury brands _ Lincoln, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover _ all of which had higher sales last month than September 2001. It marked the first time all the luxury brands had improved year-over-year at once.

The Ford Focus and Ford Explorer also had record sales last month. Ford dealers delivered 42,381 Explorers to U.S. customers last month, which the company said was a new industry record for sport utility vehicles.

In trading Tuesday, DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. shares were up $2.84, more than 8 percent, to $36.35 on the New York Stock Exchange. Ford shares gained 10 cents to $9.90. GM shares were up $1.74 to $40.64.

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On the Net:

General Motors Corp.,http://www.gm.com

Ford Motor Company, http://www.ford.com

DaimlerChrysler AG, http://www.daimlerchrysler.com

Chrysler Group,http://www.chrysler.com

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