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New-Car Sales Climb 5.1% in Mid-March

March 26, 1985|STEPHANIE DROLL | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — Despite a 7.7% decline posted by General Motors, sales of domestically built new cars rose 5.1% in mid-March, setting the pace for a strong spring selling season, the auto companies reported Monday.

The six domestic auto manufacturers sold 273,822 cars in the March 11-20 period, or 30,425 per day, compared to 231,481, or 28,935 per day, in the comparable period last year. There were nine selling days in the period this year and eight in 1984; year-to-year percentage changes are figured from the daily selling rate.

Industry analysts said cut-rate financing offered by Ford Motor and Chrysler on their small-car models continued to pull sales from GM during the latest period, and that forced the No. 1 auto maker to begin similar sales incentives last week.

GM Market Share Down

Although the move came too late to affect mid-March sales, analysts said GM's decision to offer incentives should help restore its lagging share of the market. GM's market share (excluding imports) fell to 52.9% of all car sales in mid-March, compared to 60.3% during the same period last year. Meanwhile, Ford's share rose to 27.5% from 23.6% a year ago, while Chrysler's rose to 16.1% from 12.2%.

GM announced last Thursday that it would offer 8.8% financing on selected small cars through its consumer lending arm through April 30.

"With an incentive program in place, GM should regain the market share it lost over the past two months," said John Hammond, an analyst with Data Resources Inc., a Lexington, Mass.-based forecasting firm.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, new-car sales in mid-March equaled an 8-million rate, compared to 7.6 million in the same period a year ago. It was the eighth consecutive period during which the annual rate has been 8 million or higher.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate is an estimate of the number of cars that would be sold if the current pace were to continue for 12 months.

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