Vehicle Sales Fell 15.3% During Early September

From Associated Press

Sales of North American-made vehicles fell 15.3% in early September as the industry remained mired in a recession that began last year, figures indicated Friday.

General Motors Corp. reported a 19% decline in car and truck sales during the Sept. 1-10 period, while Ford Motor Co.'s combined vehicle sales dropped 18.4%.

Although Chrysler doesn't report 10-day sales segments, the Associated Press estimated that the No. 3 auto maker's sales were down 6.1%, based on the company's average monthly market share over the past 12 months.

The decline came the same day the federal government reported a 0.7% drop in retail sales for August, much of it stemming from the slumping auto sector. The report from the Commerce Department said auto sales--which represent one-fifth of retail sales--were down 2.7% last month.

Car makers got some good news Friday. The Federal Reserve cut the discount rate it charges commercial banks to 5% from 5.5%, prompting major banks to lower their prime lending rates to 8%. Since some car loans are tied to the prime, Friday's cut could induce shoppers to spring for a new car or truck.

Lower interest rates would also soften the impact of higher prices on 1992 models now arriving at showrooms. GM is raising prices an average 3.1%; Ford, 3.7%, and Chrysler, 1.4%.

The sales figures released Friday indicate that the auto makers could use some extra business.

The Big Three saw their sales drop 16.9% in early September, while Japanese auto makers reported a 0.7% rise.

For the year to date, sales of North American cars and trucks were down 12.3% compared to last year, with Big Three sales off 15% and Japanese sales up 8.9%.

Car sales for GM dropped 24.8% and truck sales fell 6.8% in early September. For the year so far, GM's sales were running 13.7% behind last year.

Ford spokesman Joel Pitcoff said his company's early September truck sales were off 8.9%, while car sales dropped 25.4%. During the early September period last year, many of Ford's sales went to rental car companies and large corporations, he said.

For the year, Ford's sales of North American-made vehicles were running 17.3% behind last year.

Among the Japanese, Nissan reported a 15.1% drop in early September vehicle sales, with car sales down 20.9% and truck sales off 10.9%. For the year, Nissan sales were up 4.8%.

Honda sales for the period were flat and for the year were up 1.2%. Toyota said its sales of North American-made cars rose 3.7% during early September but were down 4.9% for the year. Mazda's combined car and truck sales fell 7.7% in early September and rose 27.5% for the year.

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