Sales rise for GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler

No. 1 maker's 63% gain for July partly a result of strikes a year ago

August 04, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, said yesterday that its U.S. auto sales surged 63 percent from sales in July 1998, when production was crippled by strikes. Discounts helped Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG, big rivals who benefited from GM's troubles a year ago, post gains as well.

Ford's sales of North American-built cars and light trucks rose 1 percent, while DaimlerChrysler sales, including Mercedes-Benz, increased 13 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. sales rose 14 percent, while Honda Motor Co.'s were up 7.9 percent.

Auto sales have been buoyed in 1999 by low unemployment, strong consumer confidence and price breaks triggered by GM's effort to rebuild market share. The industrywide annual selling rate is forecast to remain above 16 million for a record sixth month.

Even if sales slow in the year's second half, analysts say, they are almost certain to break the annual sales record of 16 million set in 1986.

GM shares increased $1.1875 to $63.0625 yesterday, while Ford shares gained 68.75 cents to $50.0625. DaimlerChrysler shares closed at $76, up $1.25.

GM's 63 percent increase in sales of North American-built cars and light trucks, helped by price breaks, was in line with forecasts but unlikely were enough to lift its market share above its 30 percent target. GM lost ground, mostly to Asian and European makers, during two United Auto Workers strikes that closed most of its production in June and July 1998. Its sales in July 1998 were its lowest in 28 years.

GM spent an average of $1,907 per vehicle on incentives, 27 percent more than the industry average, said David Garrity, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson.

GM's total sales, including imports such as GEO Tracker and heavy trucks, rose 62 percent to 424,048.

Ford's total sales, including Volvo, Jaguar and heavy trucks, rose 4 percent to 356,949, including an 18 percent gain for car models. Ford sold 343,748 North American cars and light trucks, less than analysts' average forecast of a 3.1 percent gain. Domestic car sales rose 10 percent, while sales of minivans, sport-utility vehicles and pickups fell 4.3 percent.

Sales of its best-selling car, Taurus, rose 19 percent. Ford offered $1,000 discounts on the Taurus and Crown Victoria, the Windstar minivan and the Ford Ranger pickup.

DaimlerChrysler's U.S. car and light-truck sales, including Mercedes-Benz, rose 13 percent to 243,420 in July, beating analysts' average forecast of a 10 percent gain.

At the company's Chrysler arm, car sales fell 15 percent to 50,807, while light-truck sales rose 20 percent to 175,959. Mercedes-Benz had its second-best month ever with sales of 16,654, up 62 percent from July 1998.

DaimlerChrysler's sales were dominated more than ever by sport-utility vehicles, minivans and the Dodge Ram pickup. After softening in June, sales of the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country minivans rose 8 percent.

Toyota, the fourth-biggest automaker in the United States, said its American sales, including the Lexus luxury line, increased 14 percent to 139,483, its second-best month ever. Sales of its Camry sedan, the best-selling car in the United States, rose 26 percent, while Sienna minivan sales rose by a third. Sales of Toyota's new Tundra full-size pickup and the Tacoma compact pickup rose 37 percent.

Honda sales, including Acura, rose 7.9 percent to 100,135, its second-best month ever. Sales of its Odyssey minivan almost tripled to 5,220.

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