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Domestic Car Sales Slip 12.6% in Early September

Times Staff Writer

Domestic auto sales dropped 12.6% in early September, as a result of a tight supply of cars and cuts in sales incentive programs, the auto industry reported Wednesday.

“Incentives were so heavy around this time last year,” said Cynthia Certo, an automotive analyst with Integrated Automotive Resources. “Most of the companies had very large inventories to sell last year. . . . Inventories are pretty well under control this year.”

A year ago, Detroit’s Big Three auto makers held massive clearance sales and offered financing programs as low as 1.9% to clear dealer lots for the start of the 1988 model year. Now, as the 1989 model year is set to begin, the auto makers are being more selective with incentive programs.

General Motors reported the biggest sales decline, with a drop of 18%. Ford’s sales fell by 11.6%, and Chrysler’s sales dropped 10.2%.

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Toyota Declines

Two major Japanese companies--Honda and Toyota--reported widely differing sales results for their U.S.-built autos, mainly because of the varied levels of capacity at their U.S. plants.

Honda’s U.S.-built vehicle sales jumped 41.3% in the first 10 days of September because of expanded production at its Marysville, Ohio, plant. Since the value of the dollar began dropping against the Japanese yen, Honda has tried to avoid the higher production costs in Japan by concentrating on making more Hondas in the United States, reducing its reliance on sales of imported cars.

Toyota’s domestically built vehicles, however, showed a steep decline of 41.8%. Production at Toyota’s U.S. auto manufacturing operations has slowed during model changeover at its Fremont, Calif., joint venture plant.

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Sales of Nissan’s U.S.-built autos rose 19% in the period, and Mazda said it sold 506 domestically produced vehicles.

AUTO SALES

Percentage changes in auto sales for the first 10 days of September are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. There were eight selling days in the current and year-ago periods.

April % 10-Day 1988 change GM 74,640 -18.0 Ford 45,318 -11.6 Chrysler 20,357 -10.2 Honda U.S. 9,660 +41.3 Nissan U.S. 3,836 -19.1 Toyota U.S. 814 -41.8 Mazda U.S. 506 -- TOTAL 155,131 -12.6

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