Supported by heavily promoted discount financing offers, sales of U.S.-built cars rose 4.5% in early February, the seven domestic manufacturers reported Thursday.
The U.S. auto makers said they sold 172,373 new cars in the Feb. 1-10 period, compared to 165,221 a year before. There were eight selling days in both periods.
Industry analysts attributed the increase to the cut-rate loan offers made by all major U.S. manufacturers that have been in effect since late December.
"Incentives are still working to a degree," said Tom O'Grady, president of Intergrated Automotive Services, an industry forecasting firm, "but their impact on sales is being diluted by their ongoing presence."
However, O'Grady noted, the fact that incentives can still generate sales after repeated use for more than a year indicates that they are expanding the market, not just "borrowing" sales from future periods.
"People have been pulled into the market by incentives that might not have bought before," he said.
Among Detroit's Big Three auto manufacturers, only Chrysler reported a decline for the period. The No. 3 auto maker said its sales fell 7.8% to 22,113 units. Analysts said the year-ago period was particularly strong for Chrysler.
General Motors reported sales up 7% at 99,621, while Ford sales rose 6.1% to 42,870.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, domestic new cars sold at an annual rate of 8.6 million in early February, an increase from the 8.3-million rate posted in the same period last year. The annual rate is a reflection of the number of cars that would be sold if a period's sales pace were to continue for a full year. Auto Sales
Feb. 1-10 Feb. 1-10 % 10-Day 1986 1985 change GM 99,621 93,077 +7.0 Ford 42,870 40,413 +6.1 Chrysler 22,113 23,980 -7.8 AMC* 1,800 2,520 -28.6 VW U.S. 1,148 900 +27.5 Honda U.S. 3,453 4,331 -20.2 Nissan U.S. 1,368 -- -- TOTAL 172,373 165,221 +4.3