Ford, GM, Chrysler Sales Down In March

By Agence France-Presse The Ford Motor Co. reported that its sales of new cars and trucks slipped almost 8% last month, but drew comfort from a better-than-expected first-quarter performance. The world's No. 2 automaker sold 302,463 units last month, off 7.9% from March 2002, but boosted its market share for the quarter by more than half a percentage point to 21.3%. Virtually all Ford brands reported softening sales during the month, with the exception of Volvo and Land Rover, which were boosted by sales of the new Volvo sport utility vehicle, the XC90, and the new Range Rover, the Dearborn, Mich.-based company said. But in spite of war worries, and rising energy prices, Ford sales held up well during the first three months of the year, off by just 2% to 813,214 units, compared to a year ago. Overall, the automaker said it was encouraged by the industry's resilience in the face of war-related fears and rising energy prices. "At this point, we estimate that the economy is growing at a rate that is well below trend," noted Ford economist Jarlath Costello. "Against this background it's encouraging that housing and autos seem to have held up reasonably well in March." General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group both reported that their March new vehicle sales slid 3% from a year ago. Detroit's GM sold 391,752 new cars and trucks during the month. "Despite current economic uncertainty, industry sales remain solid, in part due to across-the-board incentive activity by all manufacturers," said John Smith, group vice president of GM North America sales and marketing. The Chrysler Group said sales of new vehicles slipped to 201,941 units. All of that decline came in the car segment, with Chrysler car sales plummeting 20% during the month. Chrysler sales chief Gary Dilts said the automaker had "held its own," during the month and the general economic environment remained favorable for new vehicle sales. "Industry analysts tell us the affordability index for new vehicles is the best it's been in the past 25 years," he said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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