GM reports 4% drop in light-vehicle sales

Except for big pickups, `the foreign brands are eating their lunch'

Auto industry

May 05, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, said its U.S. light-vehicle sales fell in April, declining 4 percent with both cars and trucks trailing the year-earlier month.

Analysts had forecast an increase of about 0.4 percent from April 1998, when GM got a head start on rivals by raising incentives to lure buyers.

Its results follow increases reported Monday by Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and Toyota Motor Corp.

GM shares fell $4.8125, or 5.1 percent, to $88.9375.

"Except for the new full-size pickup trucks, the foreign brands are eating their lunch," said Burnham Securities Inc. analyst David Healy.

"We're in a truck-oriented market, and GM still has a fairly stale lineup of passenger cars."

Cars and trucks have been selling at a record pace this year, as rising incomes and the lowest un- employment rate in 29 years encourage consumers to spend freely. Among automakers reporting results through Monday, April sales were 7.2 percent ahead of the year-earlier month.

Cars and trucks sold at an estimated annual rate of 16.3 million in April, ahead of the year-earlier 15.5 million and less than the 16.5 million in March. It was the fourth time in five months that the rate exceeded 16 million. Rates above 15 million are generally considered strong.

Ford, the world's second-largest automaker, said Monday that its total April vehicle sales rose 6.6 percent, helped by the newly acquired Volvo car line. No. 5 automaker DaimlerChrysler said its sales rose 1.8 percent, less than expected on lower demand for minivans.

Toyota's sales rose 9.6 percent, while Honda Motor Co.'s gained 4 percent, both setting April records.

Even with the percentage sales decline in April, GM's market share rose above 30 percent for the first time in seven months, said Roy Roberts, group executive for sales, service and marketing. GM's first-quarter market share was 29.4 percent.

"From here on, there will be no excuses," Roberts said.

"This last month we didn't find out until late in the month that we had smaller incentives in place than two of our largest competitors."

GM's sales of North American-built cars fell 4.1 percent, to 223,809, and sales of minivans, pickups and sport-utility vehicles declined 3.9 percent to 203,188.

Total sales, including imports and heavy trucks, fell 4.2 percent, to 433,723.

Pub Date: 5/05/99

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