Chrysler Sales Take a Stumble

Automakers U.S. sales fell 8% percent in March, but says bottom line improving gradually.

Chrysler says its March U.S. sales fell 8% from a year ago, but noted that the numbers don't reveal the company's improving health. The American automaker also announced new and expanded incentive programs to lure customers to its showrooms.

Chrysler's sales fell to 92,623 vehicles from 101,001 in March 2009, while its sales for the first quarter were down 5% at 234,215 vehicles.

But the automaker added its sales were nonetheless 10% higher than the dismal results posted in February.

"Chrysler Group is pleased with the month-over-month and retail sales improvements," said Fred Diaz, Chrysler's top sales executive. "We believe it is an indicator of the company's health."

Diaz explained that at a similar point last year the old company was buying market share with high incentives in an effort to stave off bankruptcy.

"This year consumers are purchasing our products for the quality, value and industry-leading features," said Diaz.

Chrysler announced a new "minivan pledge" which allows customers to bring the vehicles back for a full refund within 60 days if they are not satisfied.

It has also extended a zero percent financing plus cash back incentive on most 2010 model year Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brand vehicles through May 3.

The automaker, which is struggling to revamp its portfolio after several tumultuous years led to a government-financed restructuring under bankruptcy protection last year, said it has managed to shrink its inventories by 41% to 207,510 units, or a 58-day supply.

It forecast that overall industry sales would come in a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 12 million vehicles in March.

"New products like the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck and Dodge Caliber with an all-new interior are resonating with consumers, resulting in increasing sales," Diaz said. "Consumer confidence indicators are up this month and traffic in dealership showrooms continues to grow."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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