U.S. Auto Sales March Higher in March
By Michael Ellis
DETROIT (Reuters) - Nissan
Motor Co. Ltd. (7201.T) led U.S. vehicle sales higher in March
from weak levels a year ago, when war in Iraq (news - web sites)
kept many consumers at home in front of the television.
Nissan, which has rolled out a new pickup truck and sport utility
vehicles in recent months, posted a 30.3 percent gain in U.S.
sales to an all-time record of 90,494 cars and trucks.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news) posted a modest 3 percent
gain in sales, snapping a five-month-long losing streak. Results
for the second-largest U.S. automaker, which included its overseas
brands, showed that strong results for pickup trucks and SUVs
offset weaker car sales.
"March was a solid month and tax refunds should help keep
spring sales brisk," Jim O'Connor, Ford group vice president
of North America marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.
Other automakers were scheduled to release March results later
on Thursday. U.S. new car and light truck sales are expected to
rise about 4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.6
million to 16.7 million vehicles, according to Wall Street analysts
and industry officials.
New car and truck sales are expected to improve from disappointing
levels earlier this year, helped by the strengthening economy,
the start of the annual spring selling season and improved weather
across much of the country.
Stronger sales could help automakers clear excess inventory of
unsold cars and trucks, but they're not enough to cause incentives
General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news) added new sales incentives
of an extra $1,000 cash-back and interest-free loans for up to
five years on most of its pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles,
the automaker said on Thursday.
The extra $1,000 "bonus" cash is in addition to cash
rebates of up to $3,500 on many models.
Ford said it was adding $500 to the cash-back offer on some versions
of its popular F-150 pickup truck, bringing the total rebate on
some models to $1,500.
Ford also added $500 to the rebates on its 2004 model Focus car
and compact Escape SUV, raising the cash-back offers on those
vehicles to $2,500. Ford, which has seen a slow start to sales
of its all-new Freestar minivan, raised the customer cash available
on that vehicle to $4,000.
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