Sales of New U.S. Cars Drop 2.2%

Times Staff Writer

Reflecting a decline by industry leader General Motors, domestic new car sales showed a 2.2% drop in early March, the auto makers reported Friday.

A total of 181,820 domestically produced cars were sold during the March 1-10 period, compared with 185,904 in the same period last year.

Although early March's sales pace showed some signs of recovery from the lackluster sales during 1987's first two months, industry analysts were disappointed that the sales incentive programs offered by most auto makers did not provide a bigger boost.

"Given all the incentive programs currently in the market, sales are disappointing," said Ted Sullivan, an auto analyst with Chase Econometrics.

GM, which suffered a 7.1% drop in sales in early March, has the biggest incentive program of the domestic manufacturers. Its Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Chevrolet divisions are offering low-rate financing, rebates or discounts on options on most models.

Ford sales were up 5.9% for the period. The No. 2 auto maker also announced Friday that it would add the popular Taurus and Sable models to the list of cars that fall under its incentive program. Chrysler, which is also offering selective incentives, said its sales were essentially flat for the period, up a scant 0.4%.

Among the smaller manufacturers, American Honda said its sales were up 16.1% in early March; Nissan U.S. reported a 19.1% increase from the year-ago period; American Motors said its sales fell 57.3%, and Volkswagen U.S. reported a sales gain of 4.9%. Toyota, which recently began selling some of the cars it produces jointly with GM in Fremont, Calif., said it sold 500 units in the period.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, domestic new cars sold at an annual rate of 7.5 million in the first 10 days of March, down from the 7.7 million annual rate posted in the comparable 1986 period. The annual rate is a reflection of the number of cars that would be sold if a period's sales pace were to continue for a full year. AUTO SALES

Mar. 1-10 Mar. 1-10 % 10-Day 1987 1986 change GM 97,487 104,952 -7.1 Ford 50,407 47,592 +5.9 Chrysler 25,286 25,191 +0.4 Honda U.S. 4,394 3,786 +16.1 AMC* 760 1,780 -57.3 VW U.S. 849 809 +4.9 Nissan U.S. 2,137 1,794 +19.1 Toyota U.S. 500 -- -- TOTAL 181,820 185,904 -2.2


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