Auto Sales Up 5.4%; Trucks Lose Ground

Associated Press

Overall sales of North American-made vehicles advanced 2.6% in mid-August compared to a year ago, with incentives and end-of-the-model-year specials spurring car sales while truck sales dropped, manufacturers said Wednesday.

Some of the buyer interest in cars also may have been prompted by announcements of higher prices in the 1990 model year, which officially begins Oct. 1. Several 1990 models are in showrooms now.

The eight major U.S.-based auto makers sold an average of 34,290 cars and trucks a day during the Aug. 11-20 period this year, compared to a rate of 33,409 during the same time last year.

Car sales were up 5.4% and truck sales were down 2.1%.

"The two big leading (economic) indicators, that being unemployment and interest rates, don't seem to have softened," said analyst Paul Kleinaitis of Duff & Phelps of Chicago.

"So given that, and given the fact that price increases are due for the Big Three, maybe buyers were accelerated into purchasing now rather than in the new model year," he said.

'Borrowing Sales'

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. have announced average car price increases of 3.4%, 4.8% and 5%, respectively.

"I think the uptick we had in July (sales) was partly an increase in consumer awareness of a price increase," said analyst Mary Anne Sudol of Fitch Investors Service Inc. in New York.

"But the incentives got richer and the combinations make some deals too good to resist for some people," she said. "Right now, we're borrowing sales from the fourth quarter."

Higher sales in mid-August slowed the downward trend in car and truck sales this year, compared to last year.

Through last Sunday, companies said, 1989 vehicle sales averaged 37,908 a day, down 3.3% from the 39,222 vehicle-a-day rate during the same period last year.

GM said its cars sold at a daily rate of 9,752 in the mid-August period, down 0.7% from the same period last year. For the year to date, GM sales were down 8.3%.

AUTO SALES

Aug. 11-20 % 10-Day 1989 change GM 78,013 -0.7 Ford 55,020 +2.8 Chrysler 24,490 +6.0 Honda U.S. 9,732 +18.3 Mitsubishi U.S. 906 * Nissan U.S. 3,011 -19.0 Toyota U.S. 6,300 +396. Mazda U.S. 942 +4.4 TOTAL 178,414 +5.4

There were 8 selling days in the selling period this year and 9 last year. Percentage changes are based on average daily sales during each period rather than comparisons of straight totals.

* No comparison available

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