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U.S. Sales Drop at Ford and GM in October but Climb at Chrysler

From Associated Press

The world’s two largest automakers said Monday that their U.S. sales declined more than predicted last month as a late-summer sales frenzy caused more of a backlash than expected.

But the slack in business was not industrywide. DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group, aided by heavy consumer incentives, said Monday that it had an 11% sales increase from a soft month a year earlier.

The domestic arms of Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. also reported double-digit sales growth in October on the strength of a variety of new or revamped vehicles.

“Our new products are kicking in and adding volume,” said Jed Connelley, Nissan’s senior vice president of U.S. sales and marketing, referring to the automaker’s revived Quest minivan and its first full-size sport utility vehicle.

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At No. 1 General Motors Corp., overall sales fell 7.7% from a year earlier. Truck sales were off 8%, car sales nearly 7%.

“GM sales in October fell short of our objectives, in part due to a slight hangover from our very strong performance in the third quarter,” said John Smith, group vice president for GM vehicle sales, service and marketing.

No. 2 Ford Motor Co.'s domestic business fell nearly 3% as strong demand for its new F-150 pickup failed to offset a sharp decline in car sales.

Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars were off 9.3% last month compared with a year earlier, but truck sales rose nearly 1%.

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Ford sold 68,828 F-Series trucks in October, 12% more than a year earlier. Ford’s F-Series pickup is the bestselling vehicle in the United States, and it accounts for about one-quarter of Ford’s sales.

The new F-150, beefier than the previous model, went on sale in September and is considered a vital part of the company’s turnaround bid.

Despite October sales that were below predictions of some analysts, Ford executives said they were optimistic about sales prospects as the year winds down.

“The economy is sprinting, and consumer fundamentals remain favorable,” said Jim O’Connor, Ford’s group vice president for North American marketing, sales and service.

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At Chrysler, a nearly 11% decline in car sales was offset by 16.6% growth in truck volume, spurred by the Dodge Ram pickup.

The Ram had its second-best October ever as sales climbed 46% from the year-earlier period.

Nissan’s total sales, including the luxury Infiniti division, rose 18%. Toyota, with its luxury Lexus line, said sales grew 11%.

Industrywide, October sales were expected to top last year’s sluggish levels, when a sputtering economy and fears of a war with Iraq hurt business. Sales last October fell nearly 30% from record highs in 2001.

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In trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Ford shares were up 9 cents to $12.22. GM shares were up 23 cents to $42.90. DaimlerChrysler’s U.S. shares were up 51 cents to $37.45.


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